There is excitement as well as disappointment across Valencia County after the New Mexico Activities Association released the brackets for the state baseball and softball championships on Sunday.
Belen and Los Lunas were selected in baseball, while the Eagles were the only softball team in the county to qualify for the postseason.
Make no mistake about it, District 5-4A is loaded, with three teams seeded in the top four. That includes top seeded Grants, No. 2 St. Pius and No. 4 Belen (18-7, 4-4.)
The Eagles will host No. 13 Aztec (14-10, 6-4) in the best two-out-of-three series starting Friday.
Under the NMAA criteria, BHS and four other schools were ranked the same. However, a tie-breaker gave Belen the higher seed.
Eagles’ coach Tom Wisneski was “A little surprised we got a four. I’m happy with that.”
Belen defeated Aztec, 10-2, in late March on a neutral field.
“We feel very confident with our pitching. However, we can’t go in there too emotional,” Wisneski said.
He’s also counting on fan support, hoping for as many as “800, 900 fans,” for the opening game.
All games in the Aztec series will be at Belen High School, starting at 6 p.m., Friday, May 5. The first game of the possible doubleheader is set for 10 a.m. Saturday.
Valencia (9-16, 3-5) just came up short in qualifying, losing a tie-breaker for the 16th seed in 4A. The Jaguars lost to Belen 7-3 on Friday.
Los Lunas baseball
The Tigers are the 10th seed in 5A, exactly where LLHS coach Paul Cieremans predicted.
“I’m happy that’s the way it turned out,” Cieremans said, thankful the bracket did not produce any surprises.
Los Lunas (16-9, 8-2) will play the best-of-three series at No. 7 Sandia, starting at 4 p.m., Friday, May 5. The first game begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“A tough opponent,” is how Cieremans describes the Matadors, who finished second in state last year. “They have some depth. They’ve got some pitching, some hitting — we have got our work cut out for us.”
In the end, it will likely come down to quality pitching and timely hitting. “If we can do that we’ll be in great shape.”
Cieremans believes the Tigers’ schedule, which has featured a number of tournaments and doubleheaders, has prepared them for the postseason.
“This is what we work for all year,” the coach said.
The eighth seed Belen Eagles (14-11, 5-3) will be going on the road for a one-game playoff Friday at Miyamura in the 4A state softball tournament.
“One of our goals was to be able to host this year,” BHS coach Joe Duran said.
However, he’s not that disappointed with the road trip.
“We tend to play better when we travel anyway.”
Duran started making phone calls about Miyamura immediately after the brackets were announced, “trying to get a little scoop on them.”
The result of his research? “I think we have a pretty good shot — I kind of like our chances against them.”
BHS ended the regular season with a 5-2 victory over Valencia, which may have kept the Jaguars (7-16, 5-3) from reaching the state tournament.
In an amazing performance, VHS pitcher Neveah Bracamonte had 17 strikeouts and hit a home run. However, Belen starting pitcher Danae Chavira was solid on the hill and blasted a two-run homer in the victory.
Los Lunas (12-13, 6-4) just missed out on the 5A tournament. The Tigers lost costly doubleheaders down the stretch to Albuquerque High and Santa Fe Capital.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.