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Rams win 12-7 to claim Cardinal Classic

EUNICE — A late offensive surge gave Portales baseball a 12-7 win over Midland Christian on Saturday night, earning the Rams the Eunice Cardinal Tournament title in the process.

Portales (3-1) scored five runs in the fifth inning and four more in the sixth to take a 12-7 lead, having erased a four-run deficit.

“We didn’t play very good in the first inning — all three of our errors came in the first inning,” Rams coach Dusty Nusser said of his team’s early woes. “We did a good job in the (top of the) fifth of putting guys on, and then we got through the bottom of the fifth pretty quickly, which gave us some momentum.”

Midland Christian (7-4-1) capitalized on early Ram mistakes to a take a 5-2 lead in the first inning. The Mustangs then extended the lead to 7-3 in the third.

However, Portales rallied with a strong fifth frame, as Josiah Lucero led off the inning with a triple, which was followed by a Luciano Rodriguez single, an Isaiah Saiz walk, a Juan Espinoza single, and then a Mustang fielding error that cut the deficit to 7-5.

Joel Legarda then had a two-run single to put the Rams ahead for good, before Portales iced the game with a Baylor Diaz bases-clearing triple with two outs in the sixth, extending the lead to 12-7.

Diaz, by the way, came in to relieve starting pitcher Damian Belden in the third inning, and finished out the game by allowing no runs and just three hits in the final 4 1/3 innings.

Winning the Eunice Tournament is certainly an important accomplishment for Portales in the early stages of the 2018 season, and for Nusser, there’s much to like about the tournament — besides the winning part.

“We really like this tournament for a couple of reasons,” Nusser explained. “No. 1, it gives us a chance to go out of town and spend a lot of time together and bond for three days. No. 2, it’s an all-turf field, just like they have at the state tournament, which really helps prepare us.”

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