The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Rams rally past NMMI in finale to finish second in district


April 29, 2018

Kevin Wilson

Portales senior Josiah Lucero slides into home on a wild pitch as NMMI pitcher Alejandro Lopez tries to field the throw from the backstop in the bottom of the first inning of the second game of Saturday's District 4-4A doubleheader at Ram Field.

PORTALES — A seventh inning meltdown in Game 1 of Saturday's District 4-4A baseball doubleheader cost Portales a chance at the District 4-4A title. The Rams allowed four runs in the top of the seventh, falling to NMMI, 5-2. As for Game 2, Rams coach Dusty Nusser reached the 100-win milestone, as Portales held off a late Colts rally to take a 10-8 victory.

"Kinda the same thing as yesterday," Rams coach Dusty Nusser said, referring to Friday's six-error struggles in a 7-6 loss to the Colts. "You gotta tip your hat to NMMI and those guys, they made more plays than we did. We left 11 guys on base (and had) a number of key errors again. You can't win baseball games like that."

The Rams (16-10, 9-3) and sophomore starting pitcher Jordan Garcia cruised through the first six innings, until shades of Friday crept up in the top of the seventh inning. NMMI's Alejandro Barcenas raced to first base and beat out second baseman Logan McDaniel's throw to lead off the inning.

Two batters later, Martin Ayon's double to the right field corner scored Barcenas to tie the game, while a throwing error to homeplate moved Ayon to third. Jake Leible then took a strike on an attempted suicide squeeze play, which got Ayon into a rundown.

Ayon was halfway to home when Portales catcher Joel Legarda started chasing him back toward third base. During Legarda's throw, shortstop Baylor Diaz ran into Ayon along the baseline, leading to an interference call, bringing in Ayon to give the Colts a 3-2 lead.

Francisco Rivera's two-out single past third, and then a Diaz error, put runners on first and second. Legarda's pickoff throw to third base went through Luciano Rodriguez' glove, scoring Rivera and moving Connor Roe to third. Legarda's errant pickoff throw to second base, two batters later, then brought home Roe to extend the NMMI lead to 5-2.

"It was a great pitcher's duel," Colts coach Charles Ward explained. "That sophomore's (Garcia) legit. Both pitchers I thought pitched outstanding, and this time, we were fortunate to capitalize on those mistakes in that one crucial inning. That's baseball."

NMMI (19-7, 8-4) also capitalized on one of the few early Portales mistakes. A Rams throwing error to lead off the game, followed by a hit batsman, put runners on first and second with one out. Andres Bleizeffer's single to right field scored Rivera to put the Colts on the board first.

The Rams answered back in the bottom of the second, after a Rodriguez single, followed by walks from Isaac Gomez and Diaz, loaded the bases with no outs. A pair of quick outs could not save NMMI, however. Juan Espinoza's double to the left field wall gave the Rams a 2-1 lead, which they held on to until that decisive seventh inning.

Both Garcia and Rivera went the distance for their respective teams, as Garcia struck out 10 and gave up just four hits, while Rivera had four strikeouts and allowed just two runs. For Nusser, Portales' recent struggles in the field can't be explained.

"I don't know. I honestly don't what it is. If I knew, I would fix it," Nusser said. "For whatever reason, we're just struggling defensively right now. Early in the year, we were playing really good, and we weren't hitting the ball very well.

"Now we're hitting the ball well, but now we're not playing defense. Which, is good in one way, because once we put all three together, we're gonna be dangerous. Hopefully our best baseball is still in front of us."

Kevin Wilson

Portales senior Juan Espinoza tracks down a fly ball in the second game of Saturday's District 4-4A doubleheader at Ram Field.

Nusser's crew helped him earn his 100th career win in Game 2, as his Rams went ahead 8-2 after four innings. However, it appeared that the Rams were about to give another one away in the late stages after a six-run sixth inning by the Colts.

The Rams rallied right back with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, before Diaz closed things out in the seventh.

Garcia went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs, while Gavin Maloney hit two home runs and drove in five runs for NMMI.

"Each win's good, you want to win baseball games - that's our goal. But that's not just me, that's everybody," Nusser said of the milestone. "Coach (Victor) Lopez has been here the whole time with me, and I think Coach (Ruben) Tellez has been here the whole time with us.

"That's a good win for our whole program. Five years and 100 wins is 20 wins a season. So, we've had some really good seasons the past few years, and of course the guys who've played here the past four or five seasons, contributing to the success of where we're at."


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