Valley’s Robert Nuñez, center, gets congratulations from his teammates after hitting a home run against Belen during a Class 4A state tournament game on Saturday. The Vikings swept two games against the Eagles, earning a spot in the quarterfinals. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)
Valley’s Jaycob Kelly slides into second base late but is called safe after Belen’s Luciano Gomez (left) loses the ball on the tag. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)
Valley’s Robert Nuñez, center, is fired up after his home runs. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)
The first round of the Class 5A state baseball tournament ended Saturday with Sandia surviving a scare from Mayfield, and Cleveland – down three runs in the seventh inning and four runs in the eighth while facing elimination – mounting not one but two incredible comebacks to salvage its season.
Seven of the top eight 5A seeds, plus no. 9 Farmington, advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals at Santa Ana Star Field.
No. 1 Carlsbad will face the Scorpions at 1 pm No. 5 Hobbs and No. 4 Organ Mountain square off at 10 am The bottom half of the bracket is an all-metro quartet, with No. 2 Sandia playing no. 7 Rio Rancho at 7 pm, and third-seeded La Cueva facing the sixth-seeded Storm at 4 pm
Cleveland, which lost Game 1 on Friday night to No. 11 Centennial, trailed 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh of Game 2 and was three outs from starting its offseason.
But the Storm shoved across three runs to force extra innings – and then five in the eighth to pull out a stunning 11-10 victory over the Hawks.
Junior Logan Kinter’s two-RBI double in the seventh tied the game at 6-6 for Cleveland. His RBI single in the eighth capped a five-run rally after Centennial scored four times in the top of the eighth.
In the decisive game, Cleveland steamrolled Centennial 11-1 in five innings. Kinter was the starting pitcher, and tripled home an early run as Cleveland (18-11) got out quickly. He also tossed a 2-hitter.
In Game 3, shortstop DJ Sandoval went 4-for-4 and drove in four runs, while catcher Braylen Elzy socked a three-run homer in the second inning for Cleveland.
At Sandia, the Matadors, who struggled to beat No. 15 Mayfield on Friday, walking it off in the seventh, were sloppy in the opener Saturday, losing 6-3 to the Trojans with half of Mayfield’s runs unearned.
But Sandia regrouped in the win-or-go-home Game 3, pounding Mayfield 18-1 in five innings. The Matadors scored eight runs in the third, 10 more in the fourth.
Nico Barela and Adriel Figueroa-Brito homered for Sandia. Figueroa-Brito had four RBIs, as did Jameer Meadows.
In the quarterfinals, the Matadors face Rio Rancho. The teams split a pair of meetings in the regular season. The Rams avoided stress Saturday, closing out No. 10 Volcano Vista with a 9-1 victory.
Junior lefty Jason Parker gave up one hit and struck out six through six innings for Rio Rancho.
The Rams (24-4) took a 1-0 lead on Vascon Smith’s solo homer in the second, then scored three times in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Josh Boyer, a fielder’s choice off the bat of Casen Savage and a single by Ryan Casados.
La Cueva 10-runned Piedra Vista in both games this weekend, the Bears winning 11-1 on Saturday.
Akili Carris had a two-run double, part of a three-run third that put La Cueva in front 3-1. The Bears tackled on eight runs in the fifth, highlighted by David Cooper’s two-RBI double. Max McGaha drove in a pair of runs for La Cueva.
At Rio Grande, Farmington trailed the Ravens 7-4 in the fifth inning Saturday in Game 2 as the Ravens tried to force the series to a third game. But the Scorpions, amazingly, scored the final 14 runs for a crazy 18-7 victory. That included six in the fifth to go in front 10-7.
No. 1 Carlsbad beat El Dorado 12-2. Organ Mountain, in a Game 3, beat Los Lunas 11-1 after the Tigers forced it with a 13-10 win in Game 2. Hobbs won 13-3 over Las Cruces.
(Click here for the updated 5A bracket.)
CLASS 4A: No. 8 seed Valley didn’t allow a run to ninth-seeded Belen in 14 innings in the first round. The Vikings, who won 9-0 on Friday, rode a strong performance from their ace, junior lefty Alex Gilliam, to beat the visiting Eagles 2-0 in Game 2. Gilliam struck out nine in a 3-hitter and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning when the game was still scoreless. For the second day in a row, Robbie Nuñez hit a two-run homer for Valley.
Valley plays no. 1 Albuquerque Academy at 7 pm Thursday in the quarterfinals at Rio Rancho High School. The Chargers blanked Kirtland Central 10-0 on Saturday. Devan Johnson, Dominic Siegele and Riley Bleicher all had two hits and an RBI.
At St. Pius, the second-seeded Sartans beat Ruidoso 5-2 to win that series 2-0. Nick Rodriguez’s two-run double keyed a three-run second inning for the Sartans, who next face No. 7 Artesia.
No. 5 Aztec rallied to take out Hope Christian with two victories Saturday, 11-10 and 18-5. The Tigers next play no. 4 grants.
Journal Preps Editor James Yodice and Gary Herron of the Rio Rancho Observer contributed to this report.