Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Baseball/Softball column

By Felix Chavez
Sun-News reporter
The Onate Knights were seeded No. 3 in the Class 5A baseballtournament and deservedly so. Onate proved in district play that when healthy and when it has everypart in place, it is one of the top teams in the state. The No. 3 seedshows the seeding committee was fair and balanced. La Cueva and RioRancho were the top two seeds in most arguments and Onate was one of theteams that could have been seeded No. 3 along with a Valley orEldorado. But the realization is that the Knights were one of the four bestteams last year and coming into this year, expectations were high. The Knights weren't healthy or at full strength early in the season,thus they suffered a few more losses than they would have liked. But once Abe Tarin joined the team from basketball and Ariel Perezand Randy Montoya got healthy, the team had one of the best and deepestpitching staffs in the state and also the team's performance at theplate was improved. The Knights didn't get an easy draw in the first round, which is abest 2-of-3 format, drawing an experienced and hard-nosed Los Lunassquad. But OHS should get past the Tigers, setting up a quarterfinal matchupwith either Carlsbad or District 3-5A rival Las Cruces High. Andshould the Knights keep on rolling, a semifinal rematch with defending 5Achamp, Rio Rancho looms. From my standpoint, the Knights have a fairly easy road to the semis.They should get past LLHS, then they will be favored against eitherLCHS or Carlsbad. Are the Knights a state championship caliber squad? From a pitchingstandpoint, they have enough arms and their hitting has improved as theseason has gone on. If the Knights continue to get the pitchingperformances that they have been, watch out, it could be OHS' time to win abaseball title. But don't forget Mayfield, which finished second last year to RioRancho. The Trojans earned a legitimate No. 7 seed and will face Cibolathis weekend. Mayfield doesn't have the pitching it did a year ago, butthe bats are certainly heating up. Mayfield has plenty of big bats and will be a difficult matchup foranyone. But MHS might have to outscore opponents to get it done. TheTrojans struggled on the mound in a doubleheader sweep of Las Cruces Highto end the regular season and that can't be a good omen. But don't count out the Trojans, who have a veteran team and one thathas been one of the state's best baseball programs the past threeyears. Kudos have to go out to the Las Cruces High softball team. TheBulldawgs earned a share of the District 3-5A title and got a No. 7 seed inthe state playoffs, which begin today in Farmington. The Bulldawgs are a very young team and had to overcome injury issuesto get a share of the title. Head coach Rodney Pollard has to feel good about his bunch for thefuture, but he and the team feel like they can do some damage this weekat the state tournament. The Bulldawgs faced a tough pre-districtschedule and did fine and then in district, competed well in a solid, if notspectacular district. If Pollard's bunch, which includes a potentially dominating pitcherin Alberta Medina, can continue to improve in the coming years, don't besurprised of LCHS becomes an instant state title contender.

Felix Chavez can be reached at fchavez@lcsun-news.com