By Eric Butler: Freedom correspondent
FARMINGTON — One step away from a softball state championship was pretty foreign territory indeed for Portales and Santa Fe Indian School on Friday night. But, after quarterfinal victories earlier in the day at the Class 3A tournament in Farmington, the Rams and Lady Braves were poised to make some school history.
This time, it was Portales that took that historic next step as the Rams knocked off SFIS 9-5. In the second semifinal of the night, Bloomfield then knocked out St. Michael’s 14-1.
Portales will faces the Bobcats in a noon championship game today.
Earlier on Friday, the Rams blasted Robertson 15-1 in a morning quarterfinal contest to set up the semifinal showdown — which turned into a thrill ride for Portales.
“This is a great win. This is a big win, especially coming down from five-oh,” said Portales coach Robbie Crowley, pointing to the largest deficit she believed the Rams had faced all year. “It’s a definite confidence booster going into a championship game.”
SFIS (19-8) grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first as Portales (20-8) committed three errors. In the third, the Lady Braves extended the advantage. The start of a four-run rally began with one run being walked in by Portales before SFIS’ Kelly Francisco sent in two more with a single to left for a 4-0 advantage.
That’s when Crowley brought in senior Sasha Parker, who had earlier that day allowed Robertson only two hits in the quarterfinal win.
Though Parker’s first battle against S.F. Indian ended with the Lady Braves’ Tanya Montoya getting a single to make the score 5-0, her entrance marked a change of momentum in the game. Just as the Rams’ bats came to life over the last four innings, Parker didn’t allow another run and only three SFIS hits the rest of the way.
“I was very anxious because it’s very hard to be in the dugout and not be able to play with the team,” said Parker, reflecting back to the beginning of the semifinal game. “But I’ve got to keep them up in the dugout. We’ve all got to cheer and everything every time we hit — we can’t be selfish.”
In the top of the fourth, Portales struck for six runs as the Rams connected for five hits and were helped out by three SFIS errors. The rally began with a single by Vicki Huber, which was followed by a Santa Fe Indian error. Danielle Vasquez followed with a hit and Amanda Terry then knocked in Portales’ first two runs with a single. Two more runners crossed home on another Lady Braves’ error.
“We just caved in,” SFIS coach Paul Abeyta said. “One hit, one walk, one error, whatever — any combination. Then we forget to cover a base or some little thing like that.”
Portales tied the game at 5-5 when Jessica Adkins bounced a base hit up the middle to score Janette Spotswood. Adkins ultimately came around with the go-ahead run when the Rams’ Kaycee Quick punched a single into right field.
The margin stayed at one run, a 6-5 score, until Portales got two more in the top of the sixth as Terry and Adkins both got hits. In the top of the seventh, a single by Courtney Correll ultimately turned into a run when she was allowed to score from third when an illegal pitch was called.
“We haven’t been down five-zero before, maybe two-zero or three-zero,” Crowley said. “I think honestly that the seniors stepped up and decided to start leading the team. Then things started happening. We started working on the short game — making them make the mistakes.”