Low-scoring Rams pull unlikely split

Staff report
How competitive is District 4-3A in baseball?

The Portales Rams got no-hit in one game and scored in just one inning of their Tuesday doubleheader against Lovington. But it was enough for a split, with Lovington winning the opener 6-0 behind a combined no-hitter and Grant Wagner winning a 1-0 pitcher’s duel in the nightcap.

Kevin Wilson: Staff photo Lovington baserunner Ervey Gutierrez is tagged out at home by Portales junior catcher Matt Martinez on a double steal attempt in the sixth inning of the first game of Tuesday's District 4-3A doubleheader at Ram Field. Portales was no-hit in the opening 6-0 loss, but defeated Lovington 1-0 behind Grant Wagner’s one-hitter in the nightcap.

Kevin Wilson: Staff photo
Lovington baserunner Ervey Gutierrez is tagged out at home by Portales junior catcher Matt Martinez on a double steal attempt in the sixth inning of the first game of Tuesday’s District 4-3A doubleheader at Ram Field. Portales was no-hit in the opening 6-0 loss, but defeated Lovington 1-0 behind Grant Wagner’s one-hitter in the nightcap.

“I told one of our coaches that’s the first time we’d been part of a doubleheader, scored one run and got a split,” Portales coach Dusty Nusser said. “Our defense and Grant saved our bacon. He kept his pitch count down, and that helped him in the later innings of the game. That was a lot to put on his shoulders, knowing it was such a big game for us.”

The split means Portales (12-9, 5-1) needs only one loss from Ruidoso in its next four games. The Rams can clinch the district Saturday when they visit the Warriors in a noon Saturday doubleheader.

Junior catcher Matt Martinez batted in the lone run Tuesday night for Portales, putting in the third consecutive two-out hit to score center fielder Omar Legarda.

Wagner did the rest, allowing just one second-inning hit. He struck out eight and walked just two Wildcats, who dealt with plenty of their own adversity.

Luis Carillo, who had pitched four innings of no-hit ball in the opener, was tossed when he was ruled to have made malicious contact with Portales first baseman Ed Banda running out a grounder.

Lovington coach Robert Arreola was also tossed, and both were required to sit out the nightcap under NMAA rules. That could have set the bullpen and the team psyche into a tailspin.

But Lovington (14-11, 2-4) tacked on a trio of insurance runs to their first-inning three-spot, and Jonnus Rueda finished up the no-hitter and pitched his way around a quartet of walks.

“Those guys are competitive,” Nusser said. “Coach Arreola does a good job getting those guys ready to play. They did a good job and battled.”

If Portales does not get a win Saturday in Ruidoso, it can still take the district title via tiebreaker should Ruidoso and Lovington split in their district doubleheader next week.

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