Teams know seeds aren’t everything
Anyone expecting Augustin Ruiz to revel in Socorro’s misfortune does not know his history.
When the fifth-seeded Warriors fell to No. 12 Dexter in the opening-round series of the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament over the weekend, it might look like the window of opportunity for the St. Michael’s Horsemen flew wide open when the Demons became their quarterfinal opponent. Ruiz, their head coach, knows better.
In fact, he’s been down this road before when he was the head coach at Pecos in 2015. The fourth-seeded Panthers thought their path to the Class 3A (now 2A) semifinals opened up when Mesilla Valley upset Santa Rosa in a 12-5 matchup, except the Son Blazers blocked it with a convincing 15-3 win in the quarterfinals.
“It’s still in the back of my mind,” Ruiz said. “You still got to prepare like we would against a five-seed, whether it’s a five-seed or a 12. You have to prepare yourself for the opposing team, regardless of the number in front of their name.”
Whether it’s a 12 in front of Dexter’s name or an eight in front of Santa Fe Indian School, which take on No. 1 Las Vegas Robertson in a 3A quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Thursday at Rio Rancho Cleveland, the higher-seeded teams should understand very well that seeds mean nothing. Not when their opponents speak with a hint of confidence, like Braves head coach Jude Torres.
Even though the Cardinals swept SFIS in their three District 2-3A games during the season, Torres said he had his full complement of players only in the opener — a 6-5 Robertson win on April 9. The teams were tied at 5-all heading into the bottom of the fifth, but Robertson took advantage of an error to push across the winning run.
Torres said several players had cultural and religious obligations when the teams met for an April 27 doubleheader, which the Cardinals won convincingly, 10-0 and 10-1.
“I’ll have everyone available,” Torres said. “I do have one injury, but he is a lot better. We’re a different team when all of us are here. When we have everyone available, we are dangerous.”
The Braves showed that in a sweep of Navajo Prep, 7-3 and 13-3, in the opening round best-of-three series. Torres was especially pleased with the win in Games 2, as the Braves lashed out 13 hits and were able to use some “small ball” strategy to put pressure on Eagles pitchers. That was missing in the opener.
“We got back to knowing we can at that level of baseball,” Torres said. “We did have a couple of instances where we didn’t execute with the small-ball game. They had some opportunities to move over runners with bunts, but our younger players, of course, they want to hit. I had to explain to them they need to put the team first and themselves second. We had that talk and they all bought in.”
Class 3A Softball
Oliver Torres took Santa Fe Indian School out of the city for their final practice of the season, but that didn’t mean he was taking the Lady Braves out of their routine. The team went to Albuquerque to hit in the batting cages at Albuquerque Baseball Academy for a couple of hours to prepare for the No. 6 Lady Braves for their quarterfinal matchup against No. 3 Tularosa in the first game of the double-elimination portion of the bracket.
Regardless of the outcome, SFIS will return to the field at 4:30 p.m., to play either No. 7 Dexter or No. 2 Cobre. However, a loss means a long road to haul for the Lady Braves in order to reach Friday’s championship game — it would require winning four games on Thursday.
So, Oliver Torres’ hitting-cage strategy had some meaning behind it.
“The most important game is the first one because we don’t want to go into the loser’s bracket,” said Oliver Torres, the brother to Jude Torres. “You add about three games to your tournament. They know how important this is and I think my girls are focused.”
SFIS showed that focus in a 16-1 win in the opening round against No. 11 Tohatchi. The Lady Braves collected 13 hits and stole eight bases in taking care of the Lady Cougars.
Oliver Torres sees a lot of similarities in Tularosa, and both teams have covered the same territory. They handily beat Socorro during the regular season. The Lady Wildcats own a win over West Las Vegas, while SFIS came close to beating the Lady Dons twice.
“It looks like they can step up with they play a good team,” Oliver Torres said. “But they can be like us and have a bad game, too. It’s going to be an evenly-matched game.”