Rams look to bounce back against Lovington

PNT staff

A pair of tough losses to New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday in Roswell have put the Portales High baseball team in a more vulnerable position as District 4-3A play winds down.

The Rams (12-9, 4-4 district), who lost both games to the Colts in the bottom of the seventh, entertain first-place Lovington in a 4 p.m. twin bill today at Ram Field, and coach Arturo Ontiveros is hoping for at least a split against the Wildcats.

“It would be nice if we could sweep them, but a split would be (helpful),” Ontiveros said. “I hope our kids can bounce back from two losses like that and do something.”

Lovington (17-5, 8-0) needed a two-run rally in the top of the seventh on Saturday to win the first game of a doubleheader 2-1 at last-place Ruidoso (2-16, 0-8). The Wildcats ran away with the nightcap 17-1.

The Rams had a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning of Saturday’s opener before NMMI (13-12, 4-4) scored four in the fifth and one in the seventh to win 5-4. The Colts then overcame an 8-5 deficit with four runs in the final inning for a 9-8 victory in game 2.

Senior right-hander Justin Gilchrist had a no-hitter through four innings of the first game, but NMMI reached him for four runs on just two hits in the fifth. An error let in the final run of that inning.

Antonio Lucio’s RBI single in the sixth tied it, but NMMI got a leadoff triple and a one-out single off reliever Sammy Hightower in the bottom of the seventh for the win.

Lucio went 3-for-4, including a run-scoring double in the first, while Gilchrist hit an RBI single in the first and later added a triple.

The Rams overcame a 5-3 deficit with a three-run fifth in the nightcap, then added two more in the sixth. NMMI, though, took advantage of two hit batsmen, a walk and three singles in the bottom of the seventh — including a two-run, bases-loaded walkoff hit with one out — to pull even with the Rams in the district.

Gilchrist drove in two runs with a first-inning sacrifice fly and a fifth-inning double, while Kevin Gonzales went 2-for-3 with a two-run double in the fifth. Hightower and Lucio also had two hits apiece.

With their record, the Rams are virtually assured of a berth in the 16-team Class 3A postseason tournament, but they don’t want to take any chances.

“We’ve just got to finish games,” Ontiveros said. “We were up three runs late in both games (on Saturday) and just let up.

“You’ve got to tip your hats to (NMMI); they came back and took both games from us.”

Portales and NMMI have the same schedules this week — the Rams close at Ruidoso on Saturday, while the Colts visit Ruidoso today and entertain Lovington on Saturday.

Portales swept the earlier doubleheader at home against NMMI 8-1 and 7-5, and thus holds the next tiebreaker over the Colts — runs scored head-to-head.