Bernalillo homer ends Lady Cardinals’ season
RIO RANCHO — In the span of one inning, one at-bat, one swing, Las Vegas Robertson saw its season fade into the oblivion — much like the softball that Bernalillo’s Gaby Montoya blasted over the right-center field fence on Thursday.
On a day in which providence opened the door for the third-seeded Lady Cardinals, they kept running into the door. Their season ended with back-to-back frustrating losses in the Class 4A State Softball Tournament’s double-elimination bracket. After losing to the Portales Lady Rams 4-1 in the winner’s bracket semifinal in the morning, Robertson saw a 2-0 lead evaporate in the final inning against No. 4 Bernalillo in the consolation bracket.
Montoya’s three-run home run with two out in the top of the seventh inning completed the Lady Spartans’ comeback, and they held on for a 4-3 win to advance to the consolation semifinal against six-time defending state champion Silver. For Bernalillo, it was a nice reprieve from a tough 1-0 loss to Cobre, the darlings of the 4A bracket that reached the championship game.
“It was good that we got that game,” Bernalillo head coach Manuel Montano said. “Pitching is a little different when you get to the state tournament. The speed is a little faster. Our girls just needed to catch up. It was just a matter of timing.”
Robertson (21-9) was the last of the Northern New Mexico teams to exit the state tournament, as Santa Fe Indian School (16-11), which beat Ruidoso 15-14 in a morning consolation round, lost to the No. 1 Lady Colts 12-0 in the other consolation game just minutes earlier
That Silver was on that side of the bracket was the truly shocking moment of the day. It had not lost a state tournament game in seven years, a streak that encompassed 31 games and six blue trophies. Until Cobre beat the Lady Colts 5-3 in 10 innings in the other semifinal, the last team to beat Silver was Albuquerque Volcano Vista in the 2010 4A semifinals when there were five classes.
But as Silver went down in the winner’s bracket, so did Robertson behind an inability to hit in the clutch and a two-inning spurt by Portales. The Lady Cardinals had runners in scoring position with one out or less three times, but only managed to score in the sixth on Mikayla Roybal’s sacrifice fly that scored Samantha Montaño to trim the Lady Rams’ lead to 4-1.
It was the last opportunity Robertson had to score, as Portales ace Wendy Baeza went the distance to earn her 16th win of the season. She lived off of strikeouts and fly balls — she recorded seven punchouts while the Lady Cardinals flew out 12 times. Baeza also was effective in keeping the top of Robertson’s order off the bases, as the trio of Mikayla Quintana, McKayla Encinias and Ashlea Lujan went 1-for-8 with a walk.
The Lady Rams scored twice in the second and third innings to take control of the game. Shelbi Walker had a two-run single in the second to open the scoring off of Robertson junior Kendra Duran. In the third, Portales strung together three singles, a walk and a passed ball to to score its runs.
Baeza helped her own cause with an RBI single, then Alexis Garcia singled in a run for 4-0.
With their season down to a win-or-go-home proposition, the Lady Cardinals looked like it would play one more game after a two-run fourth inning gave them a 2-0 lead. Roybal’s RBI single opened the scoring, then Kenna Sandoval followed with another run-scoring single.
Duran kept the Lady Spartans in check, holding them to just five hits through the first six innings before the troublesome seventh came about. Duran walked Brittany White, then Gabby Parra and Dora Sanchez singled. Sanchez’s one-out single cut the lead to 2-1, but Julia Beyale struck out top put the Lady Spartans on the cusp of the end of their season.
Montoya drew the count to 3-1 when Duran served up a pitch down the middle that the freshman lined over the right-center field fence for a 4-2 lead.
“We were hoping she would put something in play,” Montano said. “Two outs, we were going to be running. She pretty much touched it really well. Instead of putting it in the gap, she put it over the fence.”
Duran had a chance to redeem herself, but she grounded out to end the game with runners at first and second.