By Eric Butler
Softball: Defending Champs Dominate
Though it was impeded with some rain delays initially, New Mexico carried out its new double-elimination tournament format with 105 games played in three days in Farmington.
Somewhat lost in the whirlwind of contests were notable events like Belen's Catherine Baca throwing a no-hitter, one contest rained out at the city's softball complex but resumed at Ricketts Park (West Mesa vs. Las Cruces), and several notable comebacks in Class 4A (Kirtland Central overcoming a 9-2 deficit before finally losing to Farmington 10-9; Artesia rallying from six runs down to beat Aztec).
In the end, defending champs grabbed the title again in the largest three classes as Cibola won its second straight 5A championship, Piedra Vista took its third in a row in 4A and Bloomfield became back-to-back champs in Class 3A.
The only new member of the championship club was Jal in 1A-2A, which has been a frequent winner in the past.
In Class 5A, with a 10-3 victory over Carlsbad, Cibola (30-1) finished off a remarkable year with a second straight state championship.
Cougars' pitcher Missy Martinez struck out 12 Cavegirls and scattered five hits in the victory.
"It was difficult. Everyone thinks we kind of slid through the season, but it was tough keeping the girls up all the time and keep them focused," Cibola coach Gene Victor said. "They've worked hard all year though. This was their goal at the beginning of the year - to repeat."
It was the second time in the same day that Cibola defeated Carlsbad. The first game, a 6-1 Cougars' win, temporarily sent the Cavegirls to the losers bracket where they knocked Las Cruces High off 6-1.
Needing a win to force another game against Cibola, Carlsbad was in a 1-1 tie after one when Andrea Buendia singled off Martinez and eventually scored on an error.
But speed at the bottom of the Cougars lineup spelled doom for the Cavegirls in the fifth and seventh innings. Junior Cheyenne Crum, the eighth batter for the Coogs, led off both rallies with hits and each time was followed by Alysha Alvarez legging out infield hits.
In the fifth, a seeing-eye pop to shallow right-centerfield by Cibola's Valerie Swedberg scored two runs and broke the tie. In the seventh, Swedberg and Tara Bunch connected for doubles while Latainna Eltsosie and Martinez contributed with RBI-singles.
"We worked really hard and it's always harder to come back the second time," Crum said. "Everybody's excited and that's why we're all crying - because we won."
In Class 4A, Piedra Vista successfully capped a season that included two major losses of key regulars as the Panthers topped Artesia 9-0 in the championship.
Jayme Fuller, who pitched the Panthers to the crown last year, was moved to second base in midseason when her pitching motion began to aggravate leg injuries. In the 4A title game, Fuller started off the Panthers by hitting a soft line drive that fell for an infield hit and sent home two Piedra Vista runners.
"My sophomore year, I played second base and I definitely know how to back up my pitcher. I know what it feels like to need other players on the team back you up," Fuller said. "Of course I definitely wish I was back in there (pitching), because I love that feeling of control. I'm a leader, I like to take charge, but definitely I know my role."
With his team in cruise control, leading 7-0 late, Panthers' coach Kevin Werth sent in Maurissa Ellis to pinch-hit in the seventh. Ellis hadn't played all season thanks to an ACL injury suffered during basketball season.
The Panthers' sophomore, one of their star hitters a year ago, promptly cranked a home run for another two runs and quite a capper to the PV season.
"She wasn't even supposed to run if she hit the ball," Werth said.
The only classification to utilize the "if" game, used if necessary to decide a crown between the last two once-beaten teams in a doule-elimination field, was Class 3A.
Bloomfield, led by pitcher Kellie Mason and a potent hitting attack, knocked off St. Michael's 9-3 for the 3A title. It was the second time on Saturday (May 17) that the teams met.
The first time saw the underdog Lady Horsemen force the if game by beating the previously unbeaten Bobcats 4-1.
It was the sixth win in a row for St. Michael's after losing to Santa Fe Indian on Friday morning.
There wouldn't be a seventh straight victory however as Bloomfield, in winning its second straight crown, broke the game open with three runs in the third and, sparked by a double from Alex DeHerrera, three more in the fourth.
"We were getting really excited. We were getting tired, but we just wanted it so bad," said St. Michael's freshman Samantha McFall, who homered in the title contest. "I was happy with how we worked so hard to get here, but it's always tough to lose a state championship."
"We're exhausted. We've been out here since nine o'clock this morning and we haven't had a single break," St. Mike's coach Ron Noedel said. "We beat the number one seed and knocked out the two, the three, the four and the five seeds today and last night.
"It was just a wonderful ride," he added.
In the Class 1A-2A championship, Jal knocked on the door – or outfield fence, in this case – for a pair of innings before going over the top and beating rival Loving 7-0.
After long fly balls ended both the fourth and fifth innings for the Panthers, Jal freshman Yesenia Gonzales belted a Loving pitch in the sixth for a three-run homer.
"I just wanted to wait a little bit longer, swing level and hit it," Gonzales said.
Track and Field: Cibola Boys Cruise to Title
Cibola was expected to win Class 5A titles in both boys and girls as the state meet took place in Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday (May 16-17). The Cougars did get one championship as the boys cruised to a 45-point win over second-place Rio Rancho.
Cibola got individual wins from Matt Valenzuela in the 200- and 400-dashes, Brandon Simpson in the high jump and Daniel Gooris in the pole vault.
In the girls 5A meet, however, a solid if not spectacular last day from Clovis enabled the Wildcats to hold off Cibola. Field events helped Clovis get a lead, which disappeared during the running-dominated slate on the second day. But a victory by junior Caitlin Waters in the 800 gave momentum back to the 'Cats and, in the closing event of the meet, Waters held off her Cibola counterpart in the 4x400 meter relay to give her team the title.
In Class 4A, Los Alamos upended Academy for the boys title while the Academy girls did win their portion of the meet by six points over the Hilltoppers.
Class 3A's team track champs were Ruidoso in girls and Hope Christian in the boys events.
Tennis: Hall Makes History
The state tennis tournament was also played in Albuquerque and La Cueva senior Cody Hall made a little history. Not only did he sweep his way to an easy championship in Class 5A, just as his teammates did the week before in the team competition, Hall also became the first big schools athlete to win four straight state tennis crowns.
Other boys singles victors were Goddard's Matt Neeld, who surprised defending Class 4A champ Andy Cooper of Academy by beating him 7-6, 7-5 in the finale, and Sandia Prep's Lorenzo Baca – who knocked off top-seeded Kyle Lynch of NMMI in a Class 3A semifinal before beating Robertson's Emilio Garcia in the championship.
In girls action, Valley's Thamiris Rodrigues completed her stay in Albuquerque successfully as the Brazilian foreign-exchange student won the 5A singles title by beating Highland's Kendra McBrayer in the championship contest.
In Class 4A, Academy's Lauren Pick remained champ as she knocked off Farmington's Tori Merrion and, in Class 3A, Molly McDevitt also retained the title she won a year ago by defeating Sandia Prep's Chelsea Lehman.