By Dave Wagner: PNT sports writer
Antonio Lucio wasn’t ready to say it was his best varsity pitching performance, but if not, it had to be close.
The Portales High senior allowed just four hits and retired the final seven hitters in the Rams’ second 13-3 District 4-3A run-rule victory of the day over Ruidoso on Saturday at Ram Field. Both games ended on the 10-run rule when Portales (12-7, 4-2 district) pushed over two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
“It’s up there,” Lucio allowed after finishing with two walks and eight strikeouts — including five strikeouts in one stretch of six batters. “It’s not really my best. I had kind of a rocky start, but I pulled through.”
Senior Justin Gilchrist was also strong in the opener, allowing five hits and no earned runs with one walk and six strikeouts. All of Ruidoso’s runs in that contest were the result of five Rams errors.
In addition, Portales’ bats were hot— as a team, the Rams pounded out 29 hits in 55 at-bats for the day, a .527 clip.
Rams coach Arturo Onviteros said he advised his team not to focus on the brisk breeze blowing out to left and, instead, try to put the ball in play the opposite way.
“We had kids in batting practice hitting the ball out of the yard,” Ontiveros said. “But I told them, ‘I know the wind’s blowing out 100 miles an hour, but you need to hit the ball to tie right side.”
“The majority of our kids did that, and it worked out pretty good for us.”
Curve-baller Michael Sanders had the Rams off-stride for a while in the first game, but after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first Portales reached him for nine runs on seven hits in the second — helped greatly by three Warriors errors.
“We’re in a team slump right now,” said Warriors coach Jarrett Perry, whose team fell to 4-13 overall and 0-6 in the district. “We’ve got to get things together (to make a run for the postseason), and we’ve got to do it quickly.
“We just got beat today; we got outhit. Portales ran the bases well, and they capitalized on our errors.”
Third baseman Mario Salazar and designated hitter Todd McBroom both went 3-for-4 in the opener for the Rams, while Gilchrist helped his own cause with an RBI double and a fifth-inning leadoff homer that made it 12-3.
Lucio gave up a triple and a walk to start the nightcap, but the Warriors managed just one run out of it. The Rams responded with six in the bottom of the inning, capped by center fielder Kevin Gonzales’ three-run homer.
“Once we started getting runs, it boosted me up,” Lucio said. “I just got some confidence. It’s a lot easier to hold a lead like that than to have to hold them and try to come back.”
Gilchrist went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the nightcap, while McBroom also had three hits as the Rams bounced back from Tuesday’s district doubleheader loss at Lovington.
Ontiveros said it was nice to get two solid performances on the mound.
“I was worried about it because we’d had problems at Lovington,” he said. “(Assistant) coach (Dusty) Nusser got with the pitchers and just told them they had to throw strikes.”
Portales has three district doubleheaders remaining — next Saturday at New Mexico Military, and the following week at home against Lovington and at Ruidoso.