Portales was at close to its best Friday afternoon, and Shiprock never had a chance.
The Rams got strong pitching from junior right-hander David Rodriguez and all the help they needed from Shiprock in a 10-run first inning en route to a 12-2 win in the opener of a Class 3A state first-round, best-of-3 series at Ram Field.
The game was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the 10-run rule.
Rodriguez finished with a three-hitter, striking out 13. The only two outs not on strikeouts came on a fourth-inning pickoff and a fifth-inning groundout.
“When you have David on the mound, it gives you a good chance to win when it’s close,” Rams coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “When they spot you 10 runs, it just makes it a lot easier.”
The teams meet again today at 10 a.m. If the Chieftains (15-7) can come up with a win, a third and deciding game would follow.
Portales (16-11) had only five hits, but benefited from 10 walks — including seven in a row in the first after leadoff man Brandon Lovato reached on a two-base error.
Lovato, who went 2-for-4 with two triples and three RBIs, came around on two wild pitches by Shiprock senior left-hander Brian Poyer, who then lost all command of the strike zone. By the time he was lifted, after the seven walks, it was 5-0 with the bases loaded and still no one out.
J.J. Collins added a sacrifice fly, Lovato belted a two-run triple and Ryan Schmidt hit a two-run double off junior right-hander Anthony Lee.
“The last couple of weeks we got some forfeits in our district, so we haven’t pitched to live hitters since then,” Chieftains coach Gary Graham said. “I was proud of the kids; they kept competing. (Rodriguez) was probably better than any pitcher we’ve seen all year long.”
Rodriguez, who pitched around a pair of one-out hits in the first, struggled with command in the second after the long PHS half-inning, hitting two batters and walking two. Poyer grounded an RBI single into left and Manuel Lee drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 10-2.
“It’s a lot more comfortable when you have (a big) lead,” Rodriguez said. “This was a pretty good game for me, but I can pitch a lot better. Honestly, they shouldn’t have had two runs off me, but I put myself in that position.”
Anthony Lee restored some order for the Chieftains. He permitted James Salgado’s RBI infield single in the third and Lovato’s run-scoring triple in the fourth.
Graham said Manuel Lee, who played third base on Friday, will start today’s first game and Poyer will come back when and if needed.
Ontiveros plans to go with junior right-hander Steven Sampson, with Salgado behind him.