FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista continued to put a smile on the face of head coach Mike McGaha with another strong effort in the first round of the state tournament on Saturday.
The No. 1 Panthers defeated No. 16 Bernalillo 10-0 in five innings to sweep the Spartans in the opening round best-of-three game series at Ricketts Park.
The three-time defending state champions needed just 10 innings to beat Bernalillo twice by a combined scored of 21-1.
“It was really good. I hope I don’t jump the gun on this, but I really like the way we have turned the corner from the first time we played Farmington High in district until now,” McGaha said. “We aren’t leaving guys in scoring position. For the lineup to be able to drive in those runs at this point in the season, I like where we are. The guys can see the prize is close. They have business to take care of, but they are focused.”
Jacy Cave pitched for Piedra Vista in the Game 2 win. In five innings of work, Cave allowed only three hits. He struck out three and issued just one walk.
“I really liked Jacy’s outing. He was even better than it looked on paper because we missed some close calls that could’ve made the game look a lot more dominating on his part,” McGaha said.
PV scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Jeremy Johnson and Matt Martin each singled to start the inning, and a throwing error allowed Johnson to score.
Martin scored on a double by catcher Zach Ahlgrim, and Ahlgrim’s courtesy runner eventually scored when Kody Russell was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Ahlgrim was 2-for-3 in the game with a pair of doubles, two runs scored and an RBI.
“We are all feeling confident at the plate right now,” Ahlgrim said. “I have felt better with my swing hitting the ball to right field finally. No matter who we see, we know our lineup will be good. I can’t wait.”
PV tacked on a run in the second inning when Cave hit a sacrifice fly to score Tyler Archuleta, who led off the inning with a walk.
The Panthers made it 5-0 in the third when Ian Doughty scored on a wild pitch after singling to lead off the frame.
PV scored five runs in the fourth to push the lead to 10-0 and allow Cave to finish the game in the top of the fifth via run-rule.
Martin singled to lead off the fourth and Cave bunted him over. An Ahlgrim double moved Martin to third, and Doughty drove in two more runs with another single.
A Dillan Vigil single moved Doughty to third as he eventually scored on a Russell single. Vigil scored the 10th run on a Ty Jaquez sacrifice fly.
Though Bernalillo served as a considerable step down in the level of competition PV has faced all season, McGaha said the first-round series served as a good confidence booster.
“I think in past years, playing weaker teams might have hurt us, but this year no. This team, with the gauntlet and schedule we have run, these games really gave them an opportunity to gain confidence down the stretch,” McGaha said. “There hasn’t been a hole in any order we have faced this year. For us, it was an opportunity to pitch to the glove without worrying about the matter. We gained confidence and found a rhythm. It worked to our benefit to get guys multiple at-bats and get the pressure off them a bit. It has been unbreathable for a long time.”
Piedra Vista will face Los Alamos on Thursday at noon at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque.
PV owns a 12-0 win against the Hilltoppers in the regular season opener on March 2.
McGaha is unsure which pitcher he will start in that game. He is still considering saving the arms of pitchers such as Cave and Ian Doughty for a semifinal matchup against the winner of No. 4 Santa Teresa and No. 5 Los Lunas.
“Nate Dominguez pitched against Los Alamos early on and gave up two walks and only one hit and no runs through four innings. He has been very effective and shut out Aztec, who swings the bats well,” McGaha said. “I don’t know what we will do. Do you keep your seniors hands on deck behind Gunner Archuleta? That could be another option. We will sit down and discuss it. This group of seniors have earned the right to give their input, so we will sit down and look at it.”
John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.