By Mickey Winfield: Freedom Newspapers
The Portales pitchers were perfect Friday afternoon — and the Ram hitters weren’t far behind.
Portales’ offense erupted for 22 runs in the first two innings of play and senior pitchers Mario Salazar and Phillip Danbom combined for a five-inning perfect game as the fifth-seeded Rams toppled 12th-seeded Tohatchi 26-0 in the opening round of the Class 3A state baseball playoffs Friday afternoon at Ram Field.
“You’d like to play somebody that is a little stiffer competition but when you get seeded the way they do it, you have no say in that so you play whoever they put up against you,” Ram coach Arturo Ontiveros said.
Salazar struck out eight of the nine batters he faced during his three innings, while Danbom secured the perfect game, striking out two in two innings.
“We needed to get (Phillip) some work,” Ontiveros said. “We didn’t want to use (Mario) and get him too tired for next week so that they’ll have several days’ rest and we’ll be ready to rock and roll next week.”
With the win, Portales (19-8, 12-4 district) advances to play District 1-3A champion and fourth-seeded Bloomfield (15-10, 4-0 district) in the state quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon at Albuquerque’s La Cueva High School.
“I just wanted to finish the job and keep the perfect game going,” Danbom said. “I did my job and now we’re ready for Bloomfield.”
Junior catcher Ricky Lovato and senior first baseman Todd McBroom went 3-for-4 with four RBI to lead Portales at the plate.
“We had several hits to the right side, and when they threw it inside we hit it into left field with some authority,” Ontiveros said. “And that helps our hitters confidence.”
Portales posted 13 runs in a frenzied first inning, highlighted by four wild pitches and a balk resulting in five Portales runs. Lovato also knocked in three runs in the big inning.
The Rams continued to hit the ball in the second inning with Lovato, Danbom, McBroom, junior Austin McMullen and sophomore shortstop Brandon Adkins all bringing home runs to stretch the lead to 22-0 after two innings.
After Friday’s rout, the Rams were looking forward to Wednesday’s game against Bloomfield.
“We have a statement to make,” Ontiveros said. “Last year, I thought our district got the raw end of the deal, and it kind of happened again this year. But it’s our job to make that statement.”