The Belen Eagles reached the quarterfinals of the 4A State Baseball Championships, while the Los Lunas Tigers lost their opening round series in 5A.
In softball, BHS was knocked out of the playoffs in a one-game elimination.
The Belen Eagles proved worthy of a fourth seed, appearing to have the balance to challenge for a 4A state baseball championship.
Belen defeated Aztec by identical mercy-rule scores of 11-1 to win the best-of-three series in two games and advance out of the first round of the playoffs.
“I think our guys were ready for this,” said BHS coach Tom Wisneski, crediting a tough district schedule for preparing the team. “I think our pitching came through. You don’t win 20 games with only one guy.”
Christian Wilson gave up just three hits in game one Friday to get the victory, while Aztec could only muster two hits off Malikhi Chavez in Saturday’s series clincher.
“It was really fun,” Chavez said of the series. “I enjoyed it; the thrill of it all. I love the sport.”
The hitting wasn’t bad either.
“Twenty-four hits for the series. That’s impressive,” Wisneski said.
“We dinged the ball around the yard,” is how catcher Brysen Soiles described it.
In Thursday’s quarterfinals at 10 a.m., Belen (20-7) meets fifth-seeded Artesia (17-11.) The game will be played in Albuquerque at the Elizabeth Riordan Spark Kindness Sports Complex, formerly the Albuquerque Regional Sports Complex.
Los Lunas baseball
Number seven Sandia was too much on their home field, sweeping 10th-seeded Los Lunas out of the 5A baseball playoffs in the opening round series.
Sandia captured game one Friday, 7-1, and closed out the best of three series Saturday, winning 13-10.
The tone for the opener was set early, with the Tigers leaving runners in scoring position each of the first three innings. LLHS (17-11) managed just three hits, including a home run by Casey Herrell to avoid the shutout.
On Saturday, Los Lunas scored eight runs in the fifth inning to build a 9-1 lead. But Sandia caught fire, blowing past LLHS with 12 runs in the bottom of the frame on their way to victory.
Kaden Bell and Kaden Chavez each had three hits, with Chavez connecting on a home run.
“It was a tough series. Sandia has great pitching and hitting,” Los Lunas coach Paul Cieremans said.
Despite losing eight seniors, “a special group,” Cieremans is optimistic about the future.
“Our program is getting better and better,” he said. “We had a lot of fun.”
The Tigers are well-represented on the District 5-5A honor team, led by Ryan Castillo, the district Player of the Year. He’s joined on the first team by Paul Cieremans Jr., Fabian Trujillo and Herrell.
The second squad features Matthew Castillo and Chavez, while Bell was named honorable mention.
A furious Belen rally came up short in Gallup Friday, as the No. 10 Eagles were eliminated from the 4A State Softball Championship with a 5-4 loss to seventh-seeded Miyamuri.
In the single elimination game, BHS fell behind 5-0 before rallying to pull within one run. However, Miyamuri was able to close out the victory.
“We had opportunities to score early and often,” coach Joe Duran said, adding, “It just didn’t go our way.”
Duran said pitcher Danae Chivira “competed at a high level even though she was sick the day before.”
Duran thanked the seniors, who “really wanted it and it showed in how they played.” The Eagles finish the season with a 14-12 record.
Shortly after Belen was eliminated from the 4A State Softball Championship on Friday, the Eagles found out they are losing their coach.
After eight seasons running the BHS softball program, Duran has resigned as head coach.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and support coach Contreras (BHS athletic director Steve Contreras) and the Belen school district gave me these last eight years,” Duran told the News-Bulletin.
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.