By Dave Wagner
With District 4-3A play looming, the Portales Rams are looking to put an end to their recent tailspin.
PHS plays a 6 p.m. single game today at Levelland, Texas, then hosts a 1 p.m. doubleheader against Las Vegas on Saturday at Ram Field in its final non-district contests.
After starting the season with six consecutive wins, the Rams lost five games in a five-day period — three in a tournament last weekend at Silver City and two on Monday in a doubleheader at Lubbock Christian.
“We’ve been on a slide,” first-year Rams coach Arturo Ontiveros said Thursday. “Hopefully, we can get out of it this weekend.”
Ontiveros said the Rams played pretty well in a 10-4 first-round loss to Cobre at Silver City, but not that well in their final two games in the tournament.
Lubbock Christian, he said, simply has a talented squad. The Eagles run-ruled the Rams in both games, winning 15-5 and 18-8.
“Lubbock Christian is just a well-coached team,” he said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Senior shortstop Eric Ornelas, who has handled shortstop duties for the Rams this spring after dropping 32 pounds from a 200-pound frame since the end of last season, said it’s important to get things turned around against the Lobos and the Cardinals.
“We’ve got to get our morale back up,” he said. “We want to go into district strong.”
The Rams won their opener at Littlefield, Texas, then returned to Littlefield the next week to win a tournament there.
“We’ve got to get back to the way we played at Littlefield,” Ornelas said. “As long as we put the ball on the ball and hit the away (outside) pitch, we’ll be all right.”
Ontiveros said sophomore Mario Salazar may play but definitely won’t pitch this weekend after sustaining a hip pointer at Lubbock Christian. That leaves the Rams a bit short on the mound.
Junior right-hander Justin Gilchrist will pitch tonight against Levelland, Ontiveros said, while junior Sammy Hightower is slated to start one of Saturday’s games.
Ontiveros will have a chance to reunite with his older brother Artemio, an assistant coach at Levelland.
“They used to call us Big Art and Little Art,” he said. “I was ‘Little Art.’”
Portales swept Robertson in a twin bill here last season en route to a berth in the Class 3A state championship game.
“They should be a little better,” Ontiveros said of the Cardinals. “They were fairly young last year.”
After Saturday’s games, the Rams don’t return to action until hosting Ruidoso in the district-opening doubleheader on April 9. The first game of that twin bill is set to start at 11 a.m.