By Kevin Wilson
The Portales Rams proved they could outhit an opponent when they needed to, as well as blow them out.
Senior Seth Clabaugh was the top pitcher in what was certainly not a pitcher’s duel, and the host Rams outlasted Littlefield, Texas, 10-8 Thursday night at Ram Field.
Clabaugh (3-0) picked up the win in four innings of relief for Portales (5-0) and had nine strikeouts to bring his season total to 40 in 16 innings of work. The senior left-hander came in after a seven-run third inning in which neither starter T.C. Nusser nor his fielders could seem to nail down the third out.
“In baseball, sometimes when the wheels fall off you’re in for a wreck,” Ram coach Greg Hill said. “The kids did a good job of overcoming (early errors).”
The Rams were cruising with a 4-0 heading into the third, but Nusser allowed six hits and the defense contributed with five errors. The Wildcats took advantage by sending 11 men to the plate and scoring seven unearned runs.
From the fourth inning on, though, the Ram defense regrouped behind Clabaugh. The southpaw allowed five hits in his relief appearance, but only gave up one run — an RBI single by center fielder Gabriel Reyes.
The Rams scored three runs in the fifth, led by a heady play by shortstop Ryan Acosta, to gain back the lead.
With one out in the fifth, Tyler Rutherford (3-for-4, 2 RBIs) struck out swinging but advanced to first as the ball got past Littlefield catcher Alex Garcia. Acosta saw that nobody covered home plate and scored from second base.
“Ryan really read the play well and had a key move there,” Hill said of the freshman’s baserunning.
Nusser and Kevin Cheatham each added RBI singles in the inning, and Clabaugh struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings to finish off the win.
The Wildcats only made two errors compared to seven for Portales, but coach Rick Richards felt that several mental errors helped put the game slightly out of reach.
“Errors killed us,” Richards said. “Of course, it got both of us. A couple of times, we had outs but didn’t get our feet set (to make the throw).”
All things considered, though, Richards was happy to get a split in Portales — the Wildcats beat Depew, Okla., 10-0 in the opener at Ram Field.
“I was pleased with the way we competed, especially against Clabaugh,” Richards said. “He’s good, but we stepped up and competed.”
The Rams are back in action today, as they face Depew in a 6 p.m. game. Clabaugh is the scheduled starter, but Hill wasn’t sure if he would stick with the rotation after the relief effort.
Depew and Portales will play again Saturday at noon.
Loving 2, Portales 1, 8 innings
Loving 5, Portales 4, 8 innings
LOVING — The Lady Rams had a pair of errors cost them in extra innings, and Portales dropped to 0-2 early in the season.
Portales coach Robbie Crowley was still optimistic about the way her team played, noting that several starters joined the team Tuesday following an extended basketball season.
“I was pleased with them on both sides, offensively and defensively., “Crowley said. “We had a couple of errors that cost us dearly. But two days of practice, I can accept that.
Kassandra Richards pitched all 16 innings for Portlaes, and had an inside-the-park home run in the opener.
The team returns to action Saturday at Eunice.