Saturday, May 12th, 2018, was yet another day to remember for La Cueva athletics. La Cueva’s baseball and girls track and field programs were crowned state champions and bring home two more blue trophies to the shelves of the school.

Taking a look back at the baseball game, Chad Kerschen pitched a complete game and Hunter Straub led the team in hits and RBI’s with three each, as the Bears defeated the Piedra Vista Panthers 14-3 in a five-inning mercy rule.

“I was very excited to be able to pitch that game, but I was also very nervous for the first couple of innings,” said Kerschen.

Both teams went three up, three down at the bats in the first inning, leaving no points on the scoreboard after one. But then the Bears would wake up the bats, and not let up one single time.

The top of the second inning began with a walk, putting Phoenix Autrey on base. Ben Schoneman would then hit an RBI double to drive him in and make it 1-0 Bears. Straub would follow that up by bringing Schoneman in on an RBI single, which was then followed up by an RBI single by Ryan Ramos, and an RBI single by Jack Pineda, making it 4-0 La Cueva. After that, Piedra Vista pulled starting pitcher Jarret Graham after just 1.1 innings of work.

A sac fly by Ryan Johnson and an error bringing Pineda in would extend the score 6-0 La Cueva after two innings. “…when we got the lead my mind calmed down a bit and I felt more comfortable on the mound,” Kerschen also noted.

Piedra Vista would grab two of their three runs in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI triple by Deylan Pigford and a sac groundout by Chase Silseth. The Panthers had a chance to extend the lead, but not if Kerschen could help it, striking out the final batter to end the inning.

Members of the La Cueva Baseball team celebrate their state championship in a dogpile on the pitcher’s mound. Photo: Sean Anthony

La Cueva would piece together another six-run inning in the top of the fourth inning, thanks to an RBI double by Pineda, a two-RBI single by Autrey, an RBI single by Bryce Richardson, and RBI singles by Straub and Ramos, extending the lead to 12-2. The Panthers would once again have to reach deep in their bullpen throughout that inning.

At this point in time, the mercy rule was on target, needing to finish just one more inning to make that happen. The Bears would tack on two more insurance runs on an RBI single by Schoneman, and Straub’s third RBI single to make it 14-2. Piedra Vista would do everything they could to at least avoid the mercy rule, but all they would get is one run on a sac fly by Nate Swarts before the game would close with a diving catch made by Ramos to secure the state championship.

“I was pumped the ball was coming my way,” Ramos said about the catch. “…I knew if I made that play we bring home the blue trophy.”

Members of the team recounted the memories they made with each other this season, and what they will be taking back with them in their future. “It was a great last run with [the team] and we’ll be family forever,” said Ramos as well. “I love my team and those guys. Couldn’t have done it without you guys,” Straub added. “…I wouldn’t have wanted to win a championship with any other group of guys,” Kerschen additionally added.

The Bears have now won back-to-back state championships in baseball, and their 10th state baseball championship in school history. This game was also the first time since 2010 that a state championship was won by double-digits, ironically, when La Cueva defeated Rio Rancho for the 2010 state championship.

Across the street earlier on that day at the UNM Soccer & Track and Field Complex, La Cueva’s girls track and field team of the 4×100 meter relay, and members Lexie Keller and Israel Swanson were winning state championships.

Keller won a state championship in the high jump with a 5’04” in the prelims and a 5’06” in the finals. “It felt so unreal to win the state championship for track and field,” said Keller. “And it was so amazing to see all the hard work that all of us have been doing for the past few months really pay off.”

Swanson won her state championship in the 100-meter hurdles with a prelim time of 15.20 and a finals time of 15.24. “Winning the 100 [meter] hurdles truly was the best feeling ever,” she said. “I was injured last year and unable to hurdle in the state so this was my year for redemption.”

The 4×100 meter relay team of Swanson, Keller, Sarah Mann and Crosby Grigsby also won the state championship with a time of 48.61 in the prelims, and 48.50 in the finals. “Honestly, no one understands how much training we have put in,” Grigsby said. “We all train with the team and many of us train on our own as well. We basically practice year round.”

After all those events, La Cueva would edge out three-time defending state champions, the Cleveland Storm, by 2.5 total points.

All in all, it was a great Saturday for La Cueva athletics, and the tradition of excellence looks to continue next season.