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Panthers take down Rio Rancho in Friday's semifinals, will face defending state champion La Cueva in Saturday's finals. J.P. Murrieta/NMAA

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ALBUQUERQUE – Looking back on these seven innings, nearly everything that might have, or could have, gone wrong for Rio Rancho, did in fact go wrong.

Sometimes very wrong, and Piedra Vista took advantage of it.

The third-seeded Panthers (23-7) rode a five-run fourth inning and a workmanlike outing from starting pitcher Nate Swarts, downing the seventh-seeded Rams 8-2 in today’s 6A state semifinals at Isotopes Park.

PV will play in its first 6A state baseball championship game against La Cueva at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"The only thing I can say is, we can line everyone up (today) … we’re in the state championship game, and in my opinion, we’ve come nowhere close to peaking this season," PV coach Mike McGaha said.

Six different players for Piedra Vista drove in a run, including Swarts who had two RBIs.

And while the junior righthander (10-0) maybe didn’t have his best stuff, he still supplied six efficient innings for the Panthers. He surrendered nine hits to a team he did not face in the regular season.

"I’m proud of Nate for competing," McGaha said. "He did not pitch his best game today."

The five-run fourth inning gave Piedra Vista a 6-0 lead.

"We got the big hits when we needed to," Swarts said. "One thru nine, we fight at the plate."

Meanwhile, it was a frustrating couple of hours for Rio Rancho (19-12).

An outfielder misplayed two fly balls that he appeared to lose in the sun. An indecisive baserunner got thrown out at third base.

And, perhaps most memorably, Rams designated hitter Diego Rael, with runners at second and third in the second inning, hit a bullet up the middle. The ball ripped the glove off of Swarts’ left hand. The ball fell off to the right of the mound, and Swarts went over, picked it up off the grass and threw Rael out, saving his team two runs.

Jarret Graham is expected to get the start in Saturday’s title game.

Scorpions reach first state finals since 2008

Farmington took down St. Pius 9-7 in tonight’s 5A semifinals at Santa Ana Star Field.

FHS will square off with defending 5A state champion Goddard at 3 p.m. Saturday at Isotopes Park.

 

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