Rams finish as runnerups

ALBUQUERQUE — They will go their separate ways soon, but not before one last battle as Portales High teammates that further cements a friendship that dates back to first grade.
T.C. Nusser is headed for Texas Tech. Seth Clabaugh to Angelo State, where he will play football.
Together they brought the Rams to the brink of the school’s first state baseball championship, but were unable to prevent St. Michael’s from repeating as Class 3A state champions.
Wiggling out of bases-loaded jams in two of the last three innings, the Horseman held off Portales 5-3 Friday at sun-splashed Isotopes Park.
After a rough start in which he allowed five runs in first three innings, Nusser settled down and finished with a seven-hitter. Clabaugh was 2-for-2, including a triple to left-center, and reached base in all four at-bats.
“We had a little trouble hitting with runners on base, especially in scoring position,” Clabaugh said. “But we played hard. Sometimes the team’s better than you, sometimes the ball rolls the wrong way, sometimes you don’t hit with runners in scoring position.”
Clabaugh pitched the Rams (18-10) to the school’s second state-title game in eight years, striking out 15 in a 4-2 win over Raton in Thursday’s semifinals.
“Just getting to play in the state championship with T.C. was great,” Clabaugh said. “I told my dad (Eastern New Mexico baseball coach Phil Clabaugh) that we were going to get here and we did. It’s just a dream come true to play in the state championship game with my friends and to get to the big park everybody wants to get to.”
Nusser, who sat alone in the dugout for a few minutes after the game, his head buried in his lap, couldn’t help but think about what might have been.
“It makes it a lot tougher when you think you should have won the game,” said Nusser, who struck out seven and walked two.
Junior first baseman Jacon Lopez added three hits for the Rams, who finished tied for second in District 4-3A and had to win a playoff game just to get to regional play.
While Portales stranded 10 runners, including seven in scoring position, the Horsemen (21-6) made the most of their early opportunities. The District 1-3A champions scored a pair of unearned runs in the second inning and two more in the third a double by Jerrid Garcia and a triple by winner pitcher Santiago Olguin.
Olguin scattered nine hits and struck out six, including three straight in the fifth with bases-loaded and one run already in.
Olguin (8-2) was lifted in favor of Garcia after freshman shortstop Ryan Acosta led off the Portales seventh with a sharp single.
Garcia, who went the distance in Thursday’s 10-0 win over Bernalillo in the semifinals, allowed two hits which allowed Acosta to score, but struck out Eric Ornales to end the game.
“After (Acosta) reached, we knew it was pretty much time to bring in Jerrid,” St. Michael’s coach Mark Pierce. “He’s been the guy all season, and he’s the one we wanted in there if Santi couldn’t finish.”
Oranales, one of two Rams making their first start because of an injury and a suspension, finished 1-for-3 and drove in Portales’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Portales coach Brad Hill said the Rams, who outhit St. Mike’s 11 to 7, have struggled all year getting the timely hit.
“You have to give their pitcher credit,” Hill said of Olguin. “He really battled at certain times. But you have to battle to win battles.”
The Rams will graduate five seniors, but have a solid nucleus returning led by Lopez and Acosta.
“This is a great bunch of kids,” Hill said. “We’ll lose five seniors but we have some good ones coming back.
“I can’t say enough about T.C. Nusser and Seth Clabaugh. They battled on the mound and gave us a chance to stay in the ballgame.”