By Dave Wagner
Arturo Ontiveros enjoyed a successful debut as the Portales High baseball head coach on Saturday.
Ditto for Rams pitcher Justin Gilchrist.
Portales opened its season under Ontiveros, a 1994 PHS graduate, with an 8-3 victory at Littlefield, Texas, getting five solid innings of pitching from Gilchrist, a junior right-hander who transferred from Vernon, Texas.
“It’s always nice to get your first win out of the way quickly,” said Ontiveros, who spent the past four seasons as a Rams assistant.
The Rams are slated to return to Littlefield on Thursday to begin play in an eight-team, three-day tournament. Their first-round matchup is at 10 a.m. (MST) against Tulia, Texas.
Portales snapped a 1-1 tie with a four-run third, then broke the game open when senior catcher Tyler Rutherford smashed a three-run homer in the top of the sixth, making it 8-3.
“You could gell the kids kind of relaxed after that,” Ontiveros said. “It’s a little bit easier to make a play with a five-run cushion than with a two-run lead.”
Gilchrist admitted he was a bit nervous at the start of the contest.
“I knew my teammates had my back,” he said. “We made a few mistakes, but other than that it went pretty well.”
Gilchrist said he wasn’t sure what to expect, either.
“I didn’t do too good in our (preseason) scrimmage at Clovis, so I wasn’t sure how I’d do,” he said. “But after the first few innings I calmed down.
“(Rutherford’s home run) was really nice. I was able to kind of relax after that.”
Gilchrist will also play some center field for the Rams, but said he really enjoys pitching.
“I feel like I have control out on the mound,” he said.
The Rams’ pitching should get a good test this weekend. Ontiveros said sophomore right-hander Mario Salazar, who closed Saturday’s game with two shutout innings, should get the start on Thursday with Gilchrist probably coming back on Friday.
He added that senior Eric Ornelas, junior Sammy Hightower and Rutherford should also see time on the mound this weekend.
“It’ll kind of give us an idea of what we’ll have to work with the rest of the year,” he said.
The Rams beat Lubbock Roosevelt in the first round of last year’s tourney before the final two rounds were rained out.
Saturday at Littlefield
Portales 8, Littlefield 3
Portales 014 003 0 — 8 8 4
Littlefield 100 200 0 — 3 3 2
Justin Gilchrist, Mario Salazar (6) and Tyler Rutherford; Littlefield n/a. W — Gilchrist (1-0). L — Nairn. 2B — Portales: Salazar. 3B — Portales: Lawrence Gamble. Hr — Portales: Rutherford (1). JV scores — Littlefield 5, Portales 3, 1st game; Littlefield 2, Portales 1, 2nd game.
At Littlefield, Texas
All Times MST
Portales vs. Tulia, 10 a.m.
San Jacinto vs. idalou, 12:30 p.m.
Abernathy vs. Friona, 3 p.m.
Lubbock Roosevelt vs. Littlefield, 5:30 p.m.
Portales/Tulia loser vs. San Jacinto/Idalou loser, 10 a.m.
Abernathy/Friona loser vs. Roosevelt/Littlefield loser, 12:30 p.m.
Portales/Tulia winner vs. San Jacinto/Idalou winner, 5:30 p.m.
Abernathy/Friona winner vs. Roosevelt/Littlefield winner, 3 p.m.
7th place, 10 a.m.
5th place, 12:30 p.m.
3rd place, 3 p.m.
Championship, 5:30 p.m.