By Kevin Wilson
It wasn’t a close shave for the Portales Rams, and Tyler Rutherford made sure there wouldn’t be any type of shave for his legs.
The junior catcher went 3-for-4, including two home runs in the fourth inning and six RBI, to help the Rams win their season opener, 16-4, over Friona, Texas, Tuesday night.
With the two-homer game, Rutherford quickly took care of a bet he had with junior outfielder Todd Mosier. Rutherford bet Mosier that if he didn’t have a multi-homer game in the Rams’ first four contests, he would shave his legs.
Rutherford is part of the “L-Unit,” a group of lefthanded Portales players who will all see time pitching this season. For the first game, though, senior right-hander T.C. Nusser handled the pitching and Rutherford did the hitting.
Nusser struggled early, as two Ram errors paved the way for a three-run first for the Chieftains (0-3). For the next four innings, though, Nusser kept Friona in check.
“He did really well,” Portales coach Greg Hill said of Nusser, who allowed five hits in his five innings of work. “He overcame some adversity, which might have been because of (first-game) jitters.”
The Ram offense answered with a five-run first and never trailed after that point. Friona starting pitcher Jacob Hoon allowed just one hit over the following two innings, but everything fell apart for Chieftain pitchers during an 11-run fourth.
The Rams sent 14 hitters to the plate, and Rutherford turned two mistake pitches into five runs for the Rams. He launched a three-run shot off of Hoon early in the inning, then helped close out the rally with a two-run blast off reliever Hayden Patton.
Friona coach Mike Fair thought the those pitches, and others, were slightly off location, and credited Rutherford and the Rams for making his pitchers pay.
“We had a lot of two-strike balls in the zone instead of off the plate,” Fair said. “We wanted the first one (to Rutherford) high and inside and our location was off and then we went low and inside, and he just turned on it.”
There was no question about either home run for Rutherford, who also had an RBI single in the first.
“They put it inside and that’s pretty much in my powerhouse,” Rutherford said. “In (a previous scrimmage at) Clovis, I didn’t hit really good — to be able to hit the ball and put runs on the board is a lot better for me.”
Now that Rutherford’s bet is off, the next gamble is whether or not the Ram offense can be consistent. Hill is hoping that’s a bet the Rams will win.
“We have confidence that we can swing the bats,” Hill said, “and I think we did (tonight).”
The Rams host Robertson Saturday in an 11 a.m. doubleheader. Friona will host Fritch Friday, also in a doubleheader.