By Dave Wagner
No doubt, the competition will get a bit tougher for the Portales Lady Rams as they advance in the Class 3A state softball tournament.
Saturday’s round-of-16 game against Hot Springs provided little test, even though it took the second-seeded Lady Rams (20-6) a while to break through. Once the floodgates opened, though, there was no stopping them.
Hot Springs (7-13), seeded 15th, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first and nearly got out of a second-and-third, one-out situation in the second. But a throwing error allowed the first run to score as 14 consecutive batters reached in what turned into a 14-run marathon.
It took one pitch for the game to end in the bottom of the third. Senior Jasmin Vega singled to left, took second when the outfielder bobbled the ball and came around on a wild relay to the infield to complete a 15-0 rout, stopped by the 15-run rule after three.
“We hit the ball well; we came ready to play,” Lady Rams coach Robbie Crowley said. “We weren’t rusty, and that’s one thing you kind of worry about after you’ve been off a while.”
Sophomore Kiersten Ramirez drove in three runs with a pair of hits and pitched an abbreviated no-hitter, striking out seven of the nine batters she faced. The only runner to reach was catcher Kaci Frazier, on a second-inning error, and she was caught in a rundown when she strayed too far off second base.
“She hit the ball well, and she pitched well,” Crowley said of Ramirez. “Maybe this season I haven’t given her enough credit. When you’re riding one pitcher, it’s a lot of weight on her shoulders.”
PHS had just seven hits, but took advantage of eight walks, six errors, a hit batsman and several wild pitches and passed balls.
“We may start out slow, but our goal is to finish strong,” said senior shortstop Valerie Villanueva, who had an infield RBI single and walked twice in three at-bats. “We’re trying to focus on not taking teams lightly. This year, we just want to stay focused.”
Portales advances to an eight-team, double-elimination format in Rio Rancho beginning on Thursday with a 9 a.m. game against Pojoaque. The 10th-seeded Elkettes rallied late to upend No. 7 Lovington 14-12 on Saturday.