By Dave Wagner: PNT Sports Writer
The Bloomfield Bobcats are in uncharted territory, at least in their recent past.
Bloomfield advanced past the first round of the Class 3A state baseball playoffs last week for the first time in at least four years — and perhaps more — with a 14-4 win over Grants. The fourth-seeded Bobcats (19-7) take on Portales in a 3 p.m. quarterfinal round game today at the University of New Mexico’s facility in Albuquerque.
First-year coach Frank DeHoyos, an Artesia native and the older brother of former Eastern New Mexico University pitcher Gabe DeHoyos, said his players are looking forward to the experience.
“We’re normally in the postseason, but we’re usually one-and-done,” DeHoyos said. “The kids are excited. They’re just trying to figure out what’s going on.”
The 12th-seeded Rams (14-12), who won at Las Vegas Robertson 13-8 on Saturday to advance, are just two years removed from an appearance in the 3A state championship game.
“I think our kids have a lot of confidence right now,” coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “Hopefully, they’ll make some things happen this week.”
DeHoyos and Ontiveros are friends, having gone through high school at the same time and played against each other during their prep days.
“Frank is a good coach,” Ontiveros said. “He was at Deming for several years. He’s been around good programs and he’ll do things right.”
DeHoyos said he saw the Rams play earlier this season and was impressed.
“They get after it,” he said. “They play hard, and that’s a direct reflection of their coach.”
Bloomfield has hit well over .400 for the season, DeHoyos said, adding that his starting pitcher against Portales will probably be either junior Kyle Newton or senior Chad Lance, both right-handers.
Several PHS coaches were able to scout Bloomfield’s game against Grants.
“They said they’re the kind of kids who put the ball in play,” Ontiveros said. “They’re real aggressive.”
As for the Rams, senior Justin Gilchrist was hampered by a sore shoulder last week and lasted only one-plus innings on the mound against Robertson. Junior Mario Sanchez took up the slack, blanking the Cardinals from the third through the sixth as Portales took control.
Gilchrist said his shoulder wasn’t the problem on Saturday. He said he’s doing well now, but it’s a matter of how the coaches want to go on Thursday.
“Physically I’m fine,” Gilchrist said. “It’s just up to Dusty (assistant coach Nusser) on who he feels should start.
“Any of our pitchers can start. We’re all competitors.”
Gilchrist said it was good to see the offense come alive against Robertson.
“Everybody was hitting the ball well,” he said. “I’m kind of excited about (right fielder) Jake Leal; he was hitting real good. And Lynn (Pinedo) did a good job behind the plate.”
With four lower seeds springing upsets last week, including No. 15 Ruidoso beating second-seeded Socorro, it’s hard to project what might happen.
“There’s lots of evenly-matched baseball teams,” Ontiveros said.
DeHoyos seconded that notion.
“Right now it’s anybody’s ballgame,” he said. “At this point, nothing (from the past) means anything any more.”