PNT Staff Report
The Portales Rams are just hours from the biggest baseball game in their young careers, but if you believe head coach Arturo Ontiveros, the boys are loose and relaxed.
“It’s kind of scary, but they seem kind of relaxed,” Ontiveros said. “I always like to see a little bit of urgency but our kids — they’re kind of a goofy kind of group. They tend to be relaxed and even goof off up until game time when they pull it together and they’re able to get wins.”
The fifth-seeded Rams face the top-seeded Cobre Indians in the Class 3A semifinals this morning (9 a.m.) at Lobo Field on the campus of the University of New Mexico.
“I think we have a shot,” Ontiveros said. “Our kids are pretty confident.”
Cobre’s big strength is their big bats, as Indian senior first baseman Darius Lovato leads the state in home runs with 10. Cobre also has two players in the top five in the state in batting average (Lovato third, Frank Morales second).
“They swing the bats — they’re free swingers,” Ontiveros said. “They’ve got some kids who can swing it pretty well.”
The pitcher assigned to tame Cobre’s sticks is senior hurler Phillip Danbom.
“(Cobre) pulls the ball into left field a lot and Phillip spots the pitch up on the outside part of the plate. They didn’t hit the ball to the right side very well so we’re hoping that his game is on, and he can get us a win,” Ontiveros said. “Phillip gets us ground balls, he gets us pop ups. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, but he does a really good job of keeping the opposing hitters off balance.”
The Rams defeated fourth-seeded Bloomfield 7-6 Wednesday afternoon, while Cobre escaped the other quarterfinal with a 13-12 victory against the ninth-seeded Lovington Wildcats.
According to Ontiveros, the Indian pitching staff was worked hard in their win against Lovington.
“Two of (Cobre’s pitchers) really got high in their pitch count,” Ontiveros said. “And the other two came in into the latter innings and even they threw about 30 or 40 pitches.”
Ontiveros also says his kids are ready for whoever Cobre throws this morning.
“We got to see four of their arms and it’s nothing overpowering. They throw a little bit of off-speed stuff and I think our kids have seen that all year in our district.”
This morning’s winner faces either sixth-seeded Sandia Prep or second-seeded Raton at Isotopes Park in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday afternoon.
“It may be a high scoring affair,” Ontiveros said. “I don’t know, but I think our kids will step up to the task and our kids will be just fine.”