West Las Vegas falls to Cobre
RIO RANCHO — Tired bodies, strong minds.
Aubrey Davila knew when her head hit the pillow Wednesday night how brutal Thursday was going to be for the Cobre Lady Indians. She also knew that the reward would be rich — like a berth in the Class 3A State Softball Tournament championship game.
Cobre, the second seed in the tournament, had to go the hard route to get to Friday’s championship game after losing to No. 7 Dexter 11-6 in the quarterfinals of the double-elimination tournament on Wednesday afternoon. The Lady Indians proceeded to play four games in a 26-hour period, including three Thursday, before ousting West Las Vegas 17-12 in eight innings in the consolation final at Rio Rancho High School on Thursday night.
Cobre (20-12) will play No. 3 Tularosa at noon on Friday at the UNM softball complex, needing two more wins to secure its first state title in 29 years.
Davila, the Lady Indians’ pitching ace, bore the pitching brunt for her team Thursday, pitching all but two of the 20 innings. But Davila wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wanted to win every game,” Davila said. “And I told the girls and myself, ‘Your body is going to be tired, but your mind can go much longer than you think it can.’ ”
That mental toughness was especially apparent in the fifth inning, just when things looked the bleakest for Cobre and brightest for the No. 4 Lady Dons. West Las Vegas (22-8) scored 10 runs in the third and fourth innings to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 10-2 lead, and it knocked Davila out of the pitching circle.
West Las Vegas displayed a hitting prowess in the fourth inning, as it recorded a pair of home runs, including a three-run shot by Felicia Ulibarri for an eight-run lead. By that point, the Lady Indians used four pitchers during the third and fourth innings, trying to keep their hopes alive.
“We were able to catch them off guard,” said West Las Vegas head coach Pam Sandoval. “They definitely had to change pitcher after pitcher because we kept hitting off of every one of them.”
The moment of unbridled joy in the Lady Dons dugout was the antithesis of what it was like in the final two innings of a 14-7 loss to the Lady Wildcats in the winner’s bracket final earlier that day.
It was a game in which West Las Vegas fell behind 7-3 after an inning, cut the margin to 7-6 after two, then tied the score at 7-all in the fifth on Santianna Medrano’s RBI single to left. But after clawing their way back into the game, the Lady Dons proceeded to surrender five runs in the sixth that sapped them of their confidence, so much that several players came into the dugout in tears.
Sandoval talked to them about getting refocused for the consolation final because the season wasn’t over just yet.
“We had nothing to be embarrassed about,” Sandoval said. “They battled to the end. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring it forward for our seniors.”
How close was West Las Vegas to doing that? Senior ace Jade Ulibarri held Cobre in check after giving up two runs in the opening frame, retiring nine of the next 10 batters she faced heading into the fifth inning. Ulibarri pushed it to 11 out of 12 and was one out away from getting into the sixth when the stark reality hit her.
Ulibarri gave up two-out singles to Destiny Abalos and Ashley Esqueda, with Esqueda battling off an 0-2 count to do it. Then came Davila, who deposited a 2-0 pitch to center field to cut the lead to 10-5. The Lady Indians followed with a walk, a double and two singles for three more runs to cut the margin to 10-8.
“It was a testament to how hard my girls worked,” Cobre head coach Randy Dominguez said. “They put in the time and they don’t have that ‘Be satisfied’ attitude.”
Least of all Davila.
When Cobre cut the lead to two, Davila was quick to answer the call and return to the pitching circle after leaving in the third. Even though West Las Vegas scored a run on Lucia Martinez’s single to right field to make it 11-8, Davila toughened up. She allowed only one hit after that, and that came in extra innings when Jaz Sanchez roped an RBI double for the lone West Las Vegas run in the eighth.
“Every break counts,” Davila said of her pitching sabbatical. “Between innings, I was just sitting down, getting off my legs. When I came back in, I wasn’t really fresh, but I was fresh enough.”
Meanwhile, Cobre capped the comeback with a pair of runs in the sixth to tie the score at 11-all.
When the game went into the eighth, the Lady Indians unleashed their full offensive fury with six runs that included a three-run homer by Dysis Licht for a 15-11 lead.
For the Lady Dons, the loss was a bittersweet ending to the season. They beat the top seed, fellow District 2-3A foe Las Vegas Robertson in the winner’s bracket semifinal Wednesday, but could not get the needed outs to hold onto that momentum.
Even as the team got together one last time and shared hugs and tears, Sandoval was not about to let the ending ruin the season.
“It’s been quite a few years since we’ve come this far,” Sandoval said. “I am proud of them for this third place. It’s not a bad thing.”