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Buffs post 2nd consecutive 1A state baseball crown

ALBUQUERQUE – After winning its first state title in baseball last season since going back-to-back in then-Class 1-2A in 2015 and 2016, Melrose was bound and determined to do it again.

In the end, the Buffaloes left no doubt.

Seeded third in the six-team Class 1A field coming in, Melrose outscored its three opponents 33-5 and capped off a repeat title on Friday with a 9-1 win over top-seeded District 3-1A rival Logan at the University of New Mexico's Santa Ana Star Field.

Senior Dathan Yeary tossed a complete-game six-hitter, striking out eight and walking two, and also went 3-for-4 at the plate for the Buffs (14-6).

Junior Josiah Roybal and senior Gray Brandon, who combined for five walks and a hit-by-pitch in Thursday's semifinal win over second-seeded Gateway Christian, went 5-for-8 in this one and scored five runs between them.

"They didn't hit me or anything today," Brandon said after going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored. "We were super-excited the whole game. The energy was up."

Melrose, which beat Logan 13-7 in last year's finale, tallied single runs in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth before breaking it open with five in the seventh, including a run-scoring triple by Yeary and a squeeze bunt by junior Nolan DeVaney. Yeary also had a double and added an RBI single in the fifth.

After watching the Longhorns (17-5) tally sixth in the seventh to edge Grady on Thursday, Melrose coach Jared Wilhoit said he was happy to see the extra runs come across in Friday's tilt.

"I never felt like it was just over (before the seventh)," he said. "I told the guys we have to keep the hammer down, and they did a great job.

"We hit the ball (earlier), but they got the outs they needed. Gray hit the ball well today, and Josiah (3-for-4 with three runs scored) as our leadoff hitter got on base and kept the pressure on."

Junior Josh Roybal added a sixth-inning RBI single for the Buffs, while junior Cy Draper delivered a first-inning sacrifice fly and senior Brian Larson drove in another with a groundout. Eighth-grader Kale Griffiths went 2-for-2 with a double for Logan.

In Thursday's 1A semifinals at Jennifer Riordan Sark Kindness Sports Complex in Albuquerque:

Melrose 15, Gateway Christian 4 – The Buffs rolled into the finals after posting 13 runs in the first three innings, wrapping up the contest in five on the 10-run rule.

The early scoring blitz made it a relatively easy day for senior Michael Cardonita, who scattered eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He also doubled in three at-bats and scored a pair of runs.

"I sure do love early run support," Wilhoit said. "The defense played well today, and Michael pitched well."

While the teams were even in hits, Melrose took advantage of six walks and four hit batsmen. Brandon and Josiah Roybal each went 0-for-1, but both scored twice as Brandon walked three times while Roybal walked twice and was hit by a pitch.

Yeary led the Buffs' attack, going 3-for-3 with run-scoring triples in a five-run first and a five-run third. Draper was 2-for-3 with an RBI double in the first, a run-scoring single in the second and three runs scored, while Josh Roybal and sophomore Jaxon Odom each contributed an RBI single.

The Roswell-based Warriors (13-6) pared a 12-run deficit to 13-4 with three in the third, highlighted by sophomore Sam Waide's two-run single, but that was all they could muster.

"There was a little bit of a momentum swing," Wilhoit said. "But I told the guys, 'Don't play on emotion, just play with the run support we've had.'"

Junior Rayford Fulkerson and sophomore Jacoby Chavez were both 2-for-3 for Gateway. Fulkerson scored twice, while Chavez and eighth-grader Cohen Bolin each had an RBI single.

Logan 12, Grady 11 – The Bronchos battered Logan pitching for 11 runs through three frames and built an eight-run lead, but Longhorns senior Kaeden Stoner was able to right the ship with four scoreless cantos.

Grady (12-6) still had an 11-6 advantage heading into the bottom of the seventh, but committed three errors in the stanza and helped Logan put a six-spot on the board.

"We had some errors in the seventh inning and sealed our fate," Grady coach Derrik Neece said. "It's tough, about as heartbreaking as it gets, but it's baseball."

Senior Izaiah Kneitz hit a two-run triple for Logan in the seventh, while Griffiths went 2-for-3 for the Longhorns and junior Diego Sanchez was 2-for-4.

Grady outhit Logan 10-6, with senior Zane Rush going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI, junior Deakin Ragland finishing 2-for-5 and scoring twice and freshman Zander Ciancio chipping in 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. Freshman Andre Garcia belted a three-run double in the Bronchos' four-run second.

Grady went 0-4 against Logan this season, but after losing a doubleheader 14-0 and 12-0 at Grady on April 19 each of the last two tilts was decided by a run.

"I'm proud of them," Neece said of his squad. "They played hard all year, and accomplished quite a bit for a (program) which hadn't been to state in 17 years."

Santa Rosa 6, Texico 3 (Thursday, Class 2A quarterfinals) – At the Riordan Complex, the eighth-seeded Wolverines scored three times in the fifth to pull to 4-3, but District 6-2A rival and top-seeded Santa Rosa answered with single runs in the fifth and sixth.

The Lions (22-2), whose only district loss was a 15-11 decision at Texico on April 23, scored four runs in the first to take control. Wolverines pitchers Easton Cooper and Daltyn Cain limited Santa Rosa to five hits, with senior David Chavez going 1-for-3 and delivering a two-run triple in the first for the Lions while junior Josiah Barela also had an RBI triple and scored a run, going 1-for-2.

Despite losing, the Wolverines had an 11-4 advantage in hits, led by senior Easton Cooper with 3-for-4, a double, a run scored an an RBI. Junior Edgar Mendoza went 2-for-3 and scored a run, while sophomore Jesus Chavez was 2-for-4 and knocked in a run and senior Daltyn Cain doubled in four at bats and scored once.

In Friday's semifinals at the Riordan Complex, the Lions were eliminated by Menaul 9-5. The Owls advanced to Saturday morning's championship tilt at UNM against Eunice, a 9-6 winner on Friday over Rehoboth Christian.