Cardinals shut out Braves
RIO RANCHO — When you’re hot, you’re hot.
Right now, Austen King is as hot as it gets.
The Las Vegas Robertson senior was a one-man wrecking crew in Thursday afternoon’s Class 3A State Baseball Tournament quarterfinal game at Cleveland High School. He doubled twice and reached base in all three of his plate appearances, scoring each time. It was more than enough to lead the top-seeded Cardinals to a 4-0 win over district rival Santa Fe Indian School.
It sends them into Friday’s semifinals against another district foe, St. Michael’s. Three of the four remaining teams in the 3A bracket are from District 2-3A.
The Cardinals got there on the strength of a complete-game shutout by starting pitcher Caleb Marujo. Considered the No. 2 or No. 3 starter on a staff that still has plenty left for whatever lies ahead, the 5-foot-6, 125-pound junior wasn’t quite dominant, but he certainly was in control.
He allowed just four hits and walked four, getting a pair of double plays to go with five strikeouts. He threw just 88 pitches over seven innings. A radar gun behind the backstop had his fastball in the high 70s.
“I think I catch some people off guard because they look at me and think I can’t throw hard,” Marujo said.
He got plenty of help from the bottom of his order. King batted cleanup and finished 2-for-2 while No. 7 hitter Jason Gold had two hits, a run scored and an RBI while No. 8 hitter Antonio Cordova drove in a run, as did Derrick Montano out of the 6-hole.
King hammered a 390-foot double off the wall in center to lead off the bottom of the second inning, scoring moments later after a sacrifice put him at third and a passed ball brought him home with the first run of the game against SFIS pitcher Jaden Aguino.
Another King double in the fourth led to the Cardinals’ third run of the game when, two batters later, Gold’s RBI single later added some insurance.
“My approach at the plate is just as simple as putting the ball on the bat and make something happen for the next guy up to maybe bring me in,” King said. “Don’t really think about it too much. Just trying to make contact and get on any way I can.”
Robertson head coach Leroy Gonzalez will hand the ball to King to start Friday’s semifinal against St. Michael’s. King’s first start of the season came April 30, a complete-game gem against St. Michael’s in Las Vegas.
Gonzalez hasn’t ruled out the possibility of putting Brandon Lucero on the mound if things get rough. The team’s ace the last two years, Lucero hasn’t been on the mound since an April 13 doubleheader at St. Michael’s when he suffered an undisclosed injury to his throwing arm.
“Austen’s throwing it well, and we’re playing this thing out like we’re trying to keep all the options open for Saturday [the championship game],” Gonzalez said. “Brandon’s fine. He’ll pitch before this thing is over.”
West Las Vegas 2, Cobre 1
Pablo Leyba’s RBI double off the wall in left with two outs in the bottom of the fifth brought home Roy Pacheco Jr. with the eventual game-winning run as the third-seeded Dons (20-6) advanced to a semifinal appearance against No. 7 New Mexico Military Institute.
NMMI upset No. 2 East Mountain, 14-5, in Thursday’s first game.
Cobre got on the scoreboard first with an RBI double by Felix Dominguez in the top of the second. West Las Vegas tied it in their half of the frame when Josiah Baca had an RBI double of his own, scoring pinch runner Sammy Vigil. It remained that way until Leyba’s big hit three innings later.
Cobre threatened in the top of the seventh when Zachary Jimenez lined a triple to right off Dons relief pitcher Antonio Bustamante. A bunt single and a stolen base put runners at second and third with no one out.
Bustamante settled down, coaxing groundouts to first and third, then ending it with an infield popout to short.