Rams beat Hope Christian to claim 4A baseball title
Title is third for Ram boys this season, along with football and golf
Last updated 5/15/2017 at 7:47am
ALBUQUERQUE — Portales High and District 4-4A rival Hope Christian ended the season 2-2 in baseball matchups, but the Rams got the one that counted the most on Saturday.
PHS handed the Huskies a resounding 8-4 setback at Isotopes Park in the Class 4A state championship game, posting the second state title in program history.
Portales (24-7) could have been hesitant coming into Saturday's final, given the Huskies took the district series 2-1. But championship experience and talent paid off for the Rams.
"We felt pretty good about the situation because Hope had to use up some pitchers in the first (two) games, so we knew what we were going up against and were pretty confident going into it," Portales coach Dusty Nusser said. "We told the kids coming in, we were probably more experienced than Hope because we were here last year."
Portales never trailed, scoring in the first when Emilio Lovato drove in Jordan Garcia, who led off the contest with a triple. The lead stretched to 3-0 with Lovato and Juan Espinoza scoring on a string of singles and wild pitches in the third.
Josiah Lucero — chased early in Friday's semifinal before the Rams edged St. Michael's 4-3 with a three-run seventh — turned it around after taking over for starter Damian Belden.
"Damian did exactly what we wanted him to do," Nusser said. "He got through the lineup maybe once or twice. Bringing in Josiah after yesterday, he's been good for us all year.
"Even though he had a bad outing, we knew he was going to bounce back for us — that's just the type of kid he is and he has been good for us all year."
Before giving way to Lucero, Belden allowed three hits and two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Hope scored a pair off Belden in the bottom of the third, but the Rams kept piling on due to numerous passed balls and walks by the Huskies pitchers.
Alex Galvan homered and finished 2-for-4 while Joel Legarda was 2-for-3 with a double.
Evan Torres went 2-for-2 to lead the Huskies (23-8).
The championship is the Rams' first under Nusser, a 2001 PHS graduate, with Arturo Ontiveros coaching the 2012 Class 3A title winner. Making the win even better was the fact that Portales was the runner-up in Sandia Prep's 13-0 title win last year.
"Obviously winning the first one is pretty special," Nusser said. "We know how hard the kids and the coaching staff worked, so it's definitely really special.
"Of course anytime you win a state championship, whether it's your first or fifth, they are all pretty special."