Portales, NMMI set for tiebreaker

By Kevin Wilson

The bad news for the Portales High baseball team is that it is facing the potential scenario of playing two games in three days, with a trip that could span more than 850 miles roundtrip.
That’s also the good news, in the mind of Ram coach Greg Hill.
“You look at everything, it’s great,” Hill said after Wednesday’s practice, roughly 24 hours before Portales and New Mexico Military Institute play a tiebreaker game for the District 4-3A runnerup spot.
“We get to play more games,” Hill said, “and we think we’re pretty hard to beat in single games.”
That theory will be put to the test today, and possibly tomorrow, for Portales. The tiebreaker was made necessary when NMMI split Tuesday’s doubleheader with Lovington.
The Rams could be upset about Lovington not finishing off NMMI for them, but at the same time are pleased that they weren’t knocked out of postseason contention completely.
“Second chances don’t come around often,” Hill said. “You don’t always get them, so take advantage when you do. Every out, every at-bat — they’re all precious.”
Colt coach Charlie Ward has taken a similar approach.
“We’re using it as a positive,” Ward said. “We’re one of the teams that are still in. There are other teams that wish they were in that spot.”
The winner of tonight’s Rams-Colts game has little time to celebrate, as it is due for a Saturday game at Cobre (either 11 a.m. or noon).
The Indians will have a decided advantage, moreso that homefield alone provides. Their opponent will be playing after a 375-mile trip from Hobbs to Bayard, with their No. 2 pitcher getting the start.
That’s not even a concern for now, Ram assistant Arturo Ontiveros said.
“It’s hard to look ahead,” Ontiveros said. “We’ve just got to take care of Thursday and worry about that later.”
It’s Ontiveros’ job to worry about the Ram lineup for tonight. Ontiveros is assuming head coaching duties for Hill, who was ejected in the Rams’ regular-season finale at Lovington.
New Mexico Activities Association rules require players and coaches to sit out an additional game following an ejection. Hill felt that he did not do or say enough to deserve an ejection in Portales’ 9-3 loss at Lovington.
“I’ve said a lot worse things about a lot better people,” said Hill, who felt that appealing to the NMAA would create a distraction.
Ontiveros is confident the team will be all right in Hill’s absence.
“We’re just going to keep things the same. These kids seem to have their attitudes right,” Ontiveros said. “In a single-game series, we’re pretty strong. We’ve got (Seth) Clabaugh starting, T.C. (Nusser) if we need him. As long as we’re hitting, we should be looking pretty good.”
Clabaugh will start for the Rams, and go up against Shawn Gibson of NMMI.
“We believe in our team,” Ward said, “but we think tomorrow’s going to be one of the toughest games of the year. Clabaugh’s the No. 1 pitcher in the state, no doubt.”