AUSTIN DENTON | SPORTS
La Cueva Athletics has written many records in its history books. But May 13th, 2017, will be one of those days that will stand out from the rest. The softball and baseball programs will bring back two blue state championship trophies to the trophy case at the school, capping off two amazing seasons that will also write their own history.
For softball, it was in the stars for them as soon as the regular season concluded and the state tournament was upon them. After beating Valley in dominant fashion 20-0 to close out the regular season, the Bears were riding an undefeated 24-0 season, were #7 ranked in the nation by USA Today, and #13 by CBS MaxPreps Xcellent Rankings. No way they could slow down, right? Right.
The #1 seeded Bears took down #3 seeded Onate 5-0 at the Lobo Softball Field, the win propelled by an Andrea Howard 2 run home run that got the Lady Bears unstuck from the early 1-0 lead they kept for quite some time. “Hard work definitely pays off,” Howard said about the win. “I am very proud of my team…” Along with Howard, Rachael Hathoot also contributed to the win, going 2-3 on the day and driving in one run.
Another headline to come out of that softball state championship games was the pitching performance of Kendra Keahbone. Keahbone went the full seven innings of the championship game, allowing only five hits, and striking out five batters. “It was all about the mentality of the seniors,” head coach Ron Romero said to the ABQ Journal. “Those seniors came out and made a statement in practice all year long that we were going to be mentally ready for every game.”
This is the second state championship for the softball program in the history of the school, and the first state title since 2005. For head coach Ron Romero, it is his first state championship trophy after being a runner-up in 2014 with the Hope Christian Huskies. Also, five members of this year’s softball team represented the Eastdale Little League team back in 2012 that won the LL Softball World Series.
Four hours later across the street at Isotopes Park, the La Cueva baseball team was getting ready for their state championship game against unarguably their biggest threat this season, the Cleveland Storm. Devin Borin was assigned to pitch their task of taking the blue, opposite the Storm’s up and coming pitcher, Jared Silva. And it already looked to be a great game.
It was a shaky start though for the Bears. Borin starting off the game hitting the leadoff batter with a pitch. Then after a sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly ball, Cleveland grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Bears clawed back through in the second with back to back hits from Isaac Standridge and Chris Campbell, and a textbook bunt by Austin Schlagel to make it a 2-1 lead.
But again, Borin struggled on the mound, and head coach Gerard Pineda had to pull him after only 1 2/3 innings. Wes Alexanderson came in as relief and brought quite a spark for the Bears. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing only two runs and striking out two. “We specifically held him back for that reason,” Coach Pineda told the ABQ Journal.
In between that pitching performance, the batters decided to light a fire on the bats and let the ball fly.
The Bears blew the door open on the Storm in the top of the sixth inning after extending their lead to 5-2. That number would get bigger for them, after a RBI triple by Ryan Johnson, a triple by Richard Ware, and a RBI single by Ryan Phillips. Then after a sac fly, Phillips tagged up to make it 10-2 Bears.
Alexanderson was pulled in the bottom of the 7th after a couple of hits by the Storm, but fans showed their gratitude by chanting his name as he walked back to the dugout. “It felt unreal, like something out of a movie!” he said.
Phillips would close out the last three outs for the Bears, giving them their fifth blue trophy in the past ten seasons, and their first since 2014 by a score of 10-4. “Coming in and closing not just the season but the state championship game was a great way to end my season off,” Phillips told The Edition. “I knew if I were to get the chance, I would have to take it and finish the job.”
The Bears finished the season 28-1, their only loss coming on opening day to Valley. They finish #7 in the nation in USA Today rankings, #9 in Baseball America’s rankings, and #25 in CBS MaxPreps Xcellent Rankings.