The state seeding committee likely had some doubts about Shiprock’s schedule, which may explain why the Chieftains are the visiting team today in Portales despite a 20-4 record.
The only concern for eighth-seeded Portales is making sure the Shiprock doesn’t get to 22 wins as the teams open a best-of-three series at 4 p.m. at Ram Field.
The teams will face off again on Saturday at 11 a.m. and, if necessary, at 1 p.m.
Senior Daniel Sanchez is slated to start today’s opener, with sophomore Grant Wagner pitching the first game on Saturday. The “if” game starting pitcher will be decided, Portales coach Dusty Nusser said, by who the Rams use in relief.
“We do have a couple of choices,” Nusser said, referring to Jarret Faust, Devin Saiz and Rey Ornelas. All three have started a game at some point during the season.
The Rams (14-12) have played a schedule across the map, and are coming off a sweep of Eunice last week.
Shiprock, meanwhile, hasn’t played many teams still in the playoff field. Three of the Chieftains’ wins came against Navajo Prep, which fell to Texico 27-0 Wednesday night as the No. 16 seed in Class 2A.
But what happens between the lines is all that really matters, Nusser said.
“I don’t think somebody gets to 20-4 by not being very good,” he said. “There’s no doubt (their schedule hurt their seeding). They finished as district runnerup, and we won our district, so that helped us.”
Nusser said he isn’t sure what to expect pitching-wise, and only got a brief glance while he opened the field for the Chieftains to have batting practice after their arrival in town on Thursday night.
“Talking to other coaches, I think they’ve got a couple of good arms,” Nusser said. “Their first three hitters are pretty good.”
The winner will move on to the quarterfinals to play the winner of the series between Wingate and top-seeded Silver.
The three-game series has been a rollercoaster for the Rams. In numerous seasons when Nusser was an assistant, the Rams would win the opener handily and then be ousted in a pair of nailbiter losses on Saturday.
“I think we need to make sure we continue to stay focused,” Nusser said. “We need to realize it’s a three-game series and not just one-and-done.”