PNT Staff Report
ALBUQUERQUE — The fifth-seeded Portales Rams thought they were a better team than the fourth-seeded Bloomfield Bobcats and in the Class 3A state baseball quarterfinals Wednesday, they proved it.
The Rams came from behind for an 8-7 win to advance to the state semifinals for the second consecutive year.
The Rams were outscored 7-3 in the first three innings, but went on their own 5-0 run in the last four innings.
“We just talked to our kids during those innings and said the things that most coaches say to try to get your kids to battle back,” Ram coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “Once we started getting some hits, we started getting loud and that struck some motivation in them.”
Senior pitcher Mario Salazar pitched the entire game for Portales, allowing seven runs on seven hits. Salazar also struck out 11 Bobcats while walking only three.
“(Mario) didn’t have his best stuff today. He had to dig deep and then in the last four innings he shut’em down and he did a good job of hitting his spots. I think he just kind of overcame that bit of adversity that he faced earlier in the game,” Ontiveros said. “He’s come a long way as a competitor. He’s got a strong will to win and he did it again for us today.”
Bloomfield took a one-run lead after the first inning at 3-2. The Bobcats scored four of the next five runs to take a 7-3 lead after the third inning, but the Rams didn’t panic.
Senior Phillip Danbom brought in a run in the fifth and sixth inning, while junior catcher Ricky Lovato connected with a two-RBI double in the sixth, combined with several Bloomfield errors, and the Rams took their first lead of the game.
“We’re really proud of how our kids responded,” Ontiveros said. “They responded really well. We had some kids that had some nerves and started out tight, but once we settled down in the fourth or fifth inning and actually had a chance to win the game, they responded well.”
Portales advances to the state semifinals Friday morning against top-seeded Cobre who defeated Lovington 13-12 in another quarterfinal contest Wednesday.
“We got to see three of their four pitchers,” Ontiveros said. “We had some good scouting on them that we can work with so we can give our kids an idea of what they’re going to face and I think that will help us.”
The Portales/Cobre winner plays either sixth-seeded Sandia Prep or second-seeded Raton in the 3A championship game at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque Saturday afternoon.