After upsetting second-seeded Goddard 6-5 in the quarterfinals, Los Lunas fell to Artesia 8-6 in the semis.
“To make it this far — it’s just amazing,” said Los Lunas head coach Shaun Reed. “They’re great kids, and they work their tails off.”
The Tigers (16-9, 3-5) came into the playoffs as a tenth-seed. After beating Los Alamos in a three-game series, they headed to Rio Rancho High School to take on Goddard in the quarterfinals.
The Tigers hit the ground running against the Rockets as their leadoff hitter, junior Chris Lucero, hit a triple on the first play. Junior Joseph Klaus knocked in a single to send Lucero home for the first run of the game. In the second inning, the Tigers scored three more runs to give them an early 4-0 lead.
“We put pressure on (Goddard’s) defense,” said Reed. “I think that was huge. They didn’t know what to do.”
Defensively, the Tigers put in a strong performance. The Rockets were scoreless until the third inning. It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh that the game became close as the Goddard gave the Tigers a scare with three runs in the final minutes.
But it was too little too late for the Rockets, and Los Lunas cruised to the semis with a one-run victory.
Less than 24 hours later, Los Lunas took third-ranked Artesia in the semifinals.
The Tigers again came out strong as junior Kees Cieremans hit a single to punch in the first run of the night.
However, Artesia scored three runs in the second, giving them a lead which they held for the remainder of the game. The Tigers surged in the fifth inning, scoring three quick runs. In the sixth inning, senior Lyvan Medrano hit a triple and eventually scored.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome Artesia’s offensive power. Senior Anthony Armendariz hit a home run to seal the Bulldogs’ win and their trip to the state final.
“I’m more proud of the fact that they’re not going to give up when something happens,” Reed said after the game. “I think we got a little too emotional.”
The Tigers are now looking to the future. Losing only three seniors — Estevan Padilla, David Sanchez and Medrano — Los Lunas baseball is set for another run in 2020.
“To go from where we’ve been in the last three years to this is a huge jump,” said Reed. “And it shows how much work these guys put in…I hope the biggest impact this has is going to be on our younger guys and our bench guys.”