Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Belen’s Diego Avila heads for home last Friday during the Eagles 10-0 victory over Valencia. BHS hosts Aztec Friday in a best-of-three playoff series.

The baseball season continues for both Belen and Los Lunas, with each playing Friday in a best-of-three playoff series.  

Belen will host Aztec in the 4A state tournament. Los Lunas goes on the road in the 5A championships to face Volcano Vista.  



Based on seeding, Belen (18-8) is a serious threat to win the 4A State Baseball Championships. While Roswell Goddard is the top seed, Belen comes in at No. 3, sandwiched right between District 5-4A rivals Grants, second seeded, and No. 4 St. Pius, the defending state champion.  

Surviving the gauntlet with a 6-2 record in the toughest district in the state is impressive. That landed BHS the right to host the opening series against No. 14 Aztec, at 6 p.m. Friday.   

“Our body of work to get here has prepared us, maybe a little bit better than them,” veteran Eagles coach Tom Wisneski said, comparing schedules.    

Shortly after the bracket was released, Wisneski said he didn’t know much about this year’s Aztec squad. However, BHS went 3-0 against the Tigers in 2023, including a pair of 11-1 victories to sweep the opening round series in the playoffs.   

“We put it on them pretty bad last year,” Wisneski said. However, “We’re not going to take them lightly. Just because we’re a three seed doesn’t really matter to us. (Aztec) figured out how to win 17 games.”  

Wisneski likes the Belen balance.  

“I feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders.”  

Offensively, the Eagles are averaging 14 hits a game during the home stretch of the season, with a deep pitching staff that includes Christian Wilson, Damian Avila, Angel Garcia and Logan Gonzalez.   

“We’ve got guys who can come in and give us one or two innings or maybe 20 pitches at a time. Most teams don’t.”  

The Belen campus will be humming Friday night, with the BHS softball team playing nearby at the same time.  

“We’re excited for the community; we’re excited to host,” Wisneski exclaimed. “We hope that everybody can come out and support us.”   

Extra bleachers have been brought in for a large turnout. Admission is free for both games.    

Game two of the series is at 11 a.m. Saturday, with the if-game to follow.  


JJ Utash, above, will be one of the pitchers Los Lunas will be counting on during the best-of-three playoff series at Volcano Vista, which starts Friday.

Los Lunas 

Heading into Sunday’s NMAA selection show, Los Lunas coach Paul Cieremans had the Tigers (17-9) pegged as the eleventh seed in 5A, which is exactly where LLHS landed.  

“I was hoping that we would crawl up” a few spots, Cieremans said.  

Ultimately, Los Lunas drew No. 6 Volcano Vista, a short jaunt up the road.   

“I am glad that we’re driving to Albuquerque rather than going to Carlsbad or somewhere like that,” Cieremans acknowledged.    

While the quick commute is nice, Volcano Vista (19-7) is a tough out.  

“A very competitive team,” is how Cieremans sizes up the Hawks. “They have good pitching, great athletes and they’re well coached. We’re in for a battle.”  

Cieremans has first-hand knowledge. In early March, the Tigers lost to VVHS 6-3. Two months later, the Tigers are tournament tested, playing the entire month of March on the road.  

“Our schedule has prepared us for the state tournament,” including the best of three opening round series, in which pitching is at a premium.   

“If we have good pitching and good defense and manufacture a few runs, we’re going to be in the games.”   

The rotation starts with JJ Utash, who leads the Tigers with six wins, and includes his cousin Jonah Utash, Kaiden Reese and Matthew Castillo.   

Castillo and JJ Utash lead a potent offense, averaging nine runs per game. Speedy Fabian Trujillo is among the leaders in 5A with 30 stolen bases.  

“I’m just very proud of this team. We have a great coaching staff, lots of support from the community,” Cieremans said. “I’m looking forward to going to Volcano Vista and making a statement.”  

First pitch is at 4 p.m. Friday. Game two is at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the if-game to follow.  



The season ended Friday for the Jaguars (8-17, 1-7) with a 10-0 setback to Belen.   

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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.