By Kevin Wilson
Portales needed a sweep to win district or a split to earn a playoff berth. The Rams got neither, but backed into the Class 3A state tournament after New Mexico Military Institute dropped its nightcap against Ruidoso, 3-1.
Portales coach Arturo Ontiveros wasn’t happy about his team’s games at Lovington, and admitted that he owed Ruidoso a favor.
“I told (Ruidoso’s) coaches I was going to have to buy them dinner at the (district) meeting on Monday,” he joked.
Otherwise, Portales was less than thrilled with Saturday’s circumstances. Justin Gilchrist was the hard-luck loser in the first game, as a double by Manny Murillo was the difference.
“He threw for us and gave us a good chance,” Ontiveros said of Gilchrist. “He threw a four-hitter. We only had two (hits, though).”
Portales (14-12) also lost the services of sophomore Mario Salazar for the opening game of the state tournament. Salazar was ejected after what Ontiveros called an “interpretation of a wild throw” — he said that Salazar was thrown out after the umpire thought a wild pitch was aimed at him.
New Mexico Activities Association rules require that players or coaches ejected from a game must sit out the next game as punishment. Portales has no games remaining until the state tournament. Ontiveros said he disagreed with the ejection, noting that the throw was simply a wild pitch and that Salazar should have at least received a warning.
In Saturday’s other district matchup, Ruidoso scored a pair of seventh-inning runs to steal the second game from the Colts, who knew going into the seventh that Portales had been swept.
“We just couldn’t get it done in the clutch,” NMMI coach Charlie Ward said.
As the District 4-3A runnerup, Portales is scheduled to play on May 17 against = District 4-4A champion Cobre, but Ontiveros said there have been conversations suggesting seeding may take place instead.