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Ram rotation key to tournament success

Portales senior T.C. Nusser insists that if there’s a must-win game, Seth Clabaugh’s the pitcher the Rams need to use.

When he took the mound on Saturday against Cobre, though, he gave the Rams a victory in a must-win game mainly because he wouldn’t let the Rams lose.

“It was just a matter of me not letting the guys down because I pitched bad,” Nusser said of his Saturday two-hitter, part of the Rams’ 11-2 win to clinch a state tournament berth.

Coming off of one of his best high school pitching performances, Nusser was quick to give credit to his teammates for giving him a quick lead and doing enough defensively to help him protect it.

“As long as I throw strikes and pitch it across the plate, my defense can help me out,” Nusser said. “It’s easy to pitch when the defense is playing well behind you. It’s also better when you score early and get the lead.”

The question now, as the Rams face Raton in a 2 p.m. Thursday game (1450 AM), is who will pitch. Both Clabaugh and Nusser have won in elimination situations — Clabaugh helped Portales beat New Mexico Military 13-10 in a district tiebreaker game on Thursday.

Will it be Clabaugh pitching for a potential state title game and Nusser pitching for the right to play in the state title game, or vice versa? It’s a question Ram coach Greg Hill has yet to answer.

“They both throw hard,” Hill said of his pitching tandem. “Our main thing is that we’ve got to get the first one.”

Hill added that a lot of the decision may be determined by matchups — Clabaugh is a lefty and Nusser is a righthander — and a determination might be made on Thursday.

“Everybody has their opinion,” Hill said, “but I really don’t (have a decision).”

Whoever pitches, Hill is confident that the other eight Rams will give their pitcher a good chance to succeed.

“I think the kids are more focused and prepared than they’ve been all year,” Hill said. “Right now, we’re just looking at matchups to see (what we’ll need to do) against Raton.”

Nusser’s opinion was that the Rams would go with Clabaugh for the semifinal game, since he thinks that probably gives the team a better chance to reach the title game. However, he understands there are other factors (i.e. a potential Friday matchup with top-ranked St. Michael’s, who faces Bernalillo in Thursday’s other semifinal).

“Either way,” Nusser said, “I know we can win as long as we score enough runs.”