Thursday, May 8, 2014

State Baseball and Softball Championships preview capsules

The 2014 State Baseball and Softball Championships open this weekend throughout New Mexico, with a number of local teams taking the field on Friday and Saturday.

In the local baseball circuit, all five District 3-5A teams - No. 6 Mayfield, No. 10 Gadsden, No. 12 Oñate, No. 13 Alamogordo and No. 15 Las Cruces - qualified for the State Tournament.

The No. 6-seeded Trojans have had a solid season and will host No. 11-seeded Rio Grande in opening-round play.

Oñate (No. 2 seed in Class 5A) and Centennial (No. 3 seed in Class 4A) are highly ranked on the softball diamond.

The baseball playoffs feature opening-round series (best-of-three games), while the state softball competition is a first-round single-elimination format.

Below, a look at local teams - and their matchups - entering the weekend:

Class 5A
Who: No. 10 Gadsden at No. 7 Cleveland
Where: Cleveland High School
When: Game 1 is Friday at 4 p.m.; possible Saturday doubleheader scheduled for 10 a.m.
Preview: Typically underestimated, the Panthers finished with a 6-6 record in District 3-5A, which was good enough for a second-place finish in the league standings. Gadsden, which holds a 13-12 overall mark, is going to come at the opposition head on and plays hard for every out of every inning. The team's offense is effective, as is ace pitcher Tony Acevedo. Still, going on the road to face Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho (which holds a 17-9 overall record and a 5-4 mark in District 1-5A) would be a highly difficult task for any of the state's southern-based teams this time of year.

Who: No. 12 Oñate at No. 5 Volcano Vista
Where: Volcano Vista High School
When: Game 1 is Friday at 4 p.m.; possible Saturday doubleheader scheduled for 10 a.m.
Preview: A tough opening series for the Knights, who've dropped four of their last five games and five of their last seven contests. Still, Oñate (13-13 overall, 5-7 in District 3-5A) salvaged a playoff spot and heads north to face a quality Volcano Vista team. Oñate has struggled hitting with runners on base this season, a trend that will need to change if the Knights want to take down the Hawks (17-7 overall, 6-3 in District 1-5A).

Who: No. 15 Las Cruces at No. 2 Eldorado
Where: Eldorado High School
When: Game 1 is Friday at 4 p.m.; possible Saturday doubleheader scheduled for 10 a.m.
Preview: After winning the Las Cruces Baseball Invitational early in the season, it was bumpy beginning for the Bulldawgs in District 3-5A play. The team got its league schedule started by being swept at Gadsden, which led to them dropping their first five games against district competition. Sure enough, however, LCHS has played better, and enter State Tournament play as winners of three of their last four contests to hold a 13-13 overall record and 4-8 mark in league. LCHS has some pitching depth, and could perhaps give Eldorado some trouble, even in the role of underdog. With that being said, the Eagles are a powerhouse program (19-5 overall, 5-4 in District 2-5A), and will be a formidable foe on their homefield in Albuquerque.

Class 4A
Who: No. 10 Centennial at No. 7 Los Alamos
Where: Bomber Field in Los Alamos
When: Game 1 is Friday at 5 p.m.; possible Saturday doubleheader scheduled for 10 a.m.
Preview: No District 3-4A state playoff representatives - that being No. 9 Deming, No. 10 Centennial or No. 15 Santa Teresa - received home games this week. For the Hawks, a second-year program that's continuing to build under head coach Rusty Evans, heading to Los Alamos will be yet another challenge. Centennial finished the regular season with a 17-9 overall record and a 9-3 mark in District 3-A play. Los Alamos, on the other hand, was 20-6 during the regular season, including a 12-0 District 2-4A record.

Who: No. 15 Santa Teresa at No. 2 Goddard
Where: Goddard High School
When: Game 1 is Friday at 5 p.m.; possible Saturday doubleheader scheduled for 10 a.m.
Preview: The Desert Warriors, who were a state semifinals team last year, finished 2014 regular-season play with a 13-13 overall record, while going 6-6 in District 3-4A play. They'll visit a Goddard team ranked No. 2 overall in Class 4A, after a 22-4 showing in 2014 along with an 8-0 District 4-4A record.

Class 5A
Who: No. 15 Clovis at No. 2 Oñate
Where: Field of Dreams
When: Friday, 6 p.m.
Preview: The Knights are legitimate and had no trouble rolling through their District 3-5A schedule. The team holds a 24-2 record on the season and 11-1 mark against its league counterparts. Now they'll face Clovis in the State Tournament's opening round, leading up to double-elimination play in Albuquerque next week. The Knights have some heavy artillery on offense and their pitching has gotten the job done to this point. Defensively, the team has been sound. No doubt Oñate is a top team in state - the No. 2 seed just behind No. 1 Rio Rancho - but are they a state championship club? That's what will be determined in the coming weeks.

Who: No. 9 Las Cruces at No. 8 Albuquerque High
Where: Albuquerque High
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Preview: Make no mistake, the Bulldawgs are a talented team capable of making some noise come state tournament time. LCHS returned pieces from last year's state championship team and knocked off Oñate last week in the final doubleheader of District 3-5A regular-season play (LCHS finished the regular season with a 17-9 overall record, along with a 7-5 record in District 3-5A). Repeating as state champions will be a tall order for the Bulldawgs. Then again, a first-round road win in the state playoffs isn't out of the question either.

Class 4A
Who: No. 14 Kirtland Central at No. 3 Centennial
Where: Field of Dreams
When: Saturday, 11 a.m.
Preview: Centennial, in just its second year of existence, is seeded No. 3 and gets a first-round state playoff game to show for it. The Hawks (21-5 overall record, 12-0 mark in District 3-4A) are young and have some talent, so expect them to hold serve on their home turf this weekend. The double-elimination rounds in Albuquerque will provide a different set of challenges, however. Waiting in the wings could be No. 6 Los Lunas - which beat Centennial earlier this season - as well as traditionally strong programs in No. 2-seed Aztec and No. 1-seed Piedra Vista.

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