By Kevin Wilson
The Portales High softball team is aiming to reach its third Class 3A title game in four seasons. Reaching it a little quicker is preferable as well.
The double-elimination tournament, which opens Thursday morning at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, is a straight-forward format. Win and reaching the Saturday title game is easy as 1-2-3, but take a loss and it’s much more difficult.
Portales (20-6) opens the tournament in a 9 a.m. showdown with 10th-seeded Pojoaque and will either face Bloomfield or Raton at 1 p.m. that day.
“If we lose (one),” Portales coach Robbie Crowley said, “Friday’s going to be a long day.”
The first team to reach the 9 a.m. Saturday title game at the University of New Mexico will have won its two Thursday games, then subsequently claimed a victory in an 11 a.m. Friday game.
A first-round loser — as Portales was in 2011 and 2012 — drops down to the loser’s bracket, where it must win the 1 p.m. Thursday game and then three games on Friday just to reach the title game. And once it reaches the title game, it would still need two wins on Saturday over the well-rested winner’s bracket champ.
In claiming its second and third runnerup trophies in the 14-year history of the program — the school also finished second in 2007 — the Lady Rams fought their way to the title game but never forced the second championship game.
Portales would take its first state title however it could, but going 4-0 over three days sounds a lot better than going 6-1 over those same three days.
“It’s a lot of work,” senior second baseman Francis Armijo said. “It pushes us (to be in an elimination situation), but we want to play less games.”
Crowley said if junior Kiersten Ramirez is healthy, the plan is to stick with her in the circle. Armijo and freshman Daisia Looney have pitched in spots this season, and Crowley said she’s more likely to go with Looney if needed because she doesn’t like pulling Armijo out of the infield.
“She played outfield last year,” Crowley said of Armijo. “She’s so quick and athletic, no matter what place you put her, and she’s a competitor.”
The top four seeds are the heavy favorites on Thursday, given they won their first-round games over the weekend by a combined score of 60-4. But seeing Pojoaque beat Lovington with a six-run seventh on Saturday shows that nothing’s guaranteed.
“We have to make the plays defensively,” Crowley said. “We have to hit the ball. We have to be aggressive with the sticks.”