Aztec, Bloomfield advance in state tourneys
AZTEC – The Aztec softball team entered its game against Del Norte in the first round of the 5A state tournament with the intention of taking care of business and advancing to the quarterfinals.
The Lady Tigers did just that and trounced No. 16 Del Norte 15-0 Friday afternoon at the Aztec Tiger Sports Complex.
“Their approach was right on. I feel like they’re on a mission, and their mind is in the right spot,” Aztec head coach Roy Johnson said. “We know we’re going to have some tough games at the state tournament, but we’re hoping that (with) what we do in practice to prepare, we’ll be able to meet the challenge. This is a great group of coaches, and I have a great group of coaches.”
Paige Adair earned the win in the circle for Aztec (22-5), striking out eight of the nine batters she faced in her three innings of work. The only out that wasn’t a strikeout was a pop-up to Sarrah Jones at first base.
Offensively, Ashlynn Bradley led the Lady Tigers by going 3 for 3 with four runs batted in. Adair, CheyAnne Simkins, Trinity Pullock and Jocelyn Ulrich added two RBIs each, with Ulrich blasting a solo home run in the third inning.
Aztec batter through its lineup in both the first and third innings.
“We’ve been doing lots of extra hitting and extra things to make us prepared for any pitcher we run into. They made corrections right away. They saw what they had to do and went after it,” Johnson said. “This is a very smart group of girls, and they understand that they’ll have to make adjustments, and if they make the adjustments right away, it’s murder on you.”
Aztec scored five runs in the first inning on four hits and one error by the Lady Knights (9-16).
The Lady Tigers added seven runs in the second inning, then ended the game in the third inning via the run rule with an RBI single from Pullock.
Every Lady Tiger player reached safely during the game.
Aztec will face No. 9 Artesia in the quarters at 9 a.m. Thursday in Rio Rancho.
Johnson said the Lady Tigers won’t take any time off to relax and enjoy the win over Del Norte.
“We start (today). We’re going to practice at 8:30 in the morning,” he said. “We don’t quit, and this group believes in hard work. We’ll be here at 8:30 and practice for three hours. Our preparation probably won’t change because what we’re doing seems to be keeping us in the running.”
Bloomfield 14, Shiprock 0
The Lady Bobcats (21-6) continued their run of dominance over Shiprock on Friday by rolling past the Lady Chieftains 14-0 in the opening round of the 4A state softball tournament at the Bloomfield Softball Complex.
In the first round last season, Bloomfield came away with the 20-0 win. Not much changed a year later, as Bloomfield played a smart game on the base paths and received a one-hit gem from starting pitcher Thalia O'Neil.
Shiprock (12-13) couldn't get out of its own way with five errors in the first two innings. Subsequently, the Lady Bobcats sent 12 runners across home plate in those two frames.
Bloomfield did everything it was supposed to do in the opening-round tilt, including drive the ball, finishing with four extra-base hits. O'Neil struck out eight Shiprock batters, gave up the one hit and one walk in the shutout. Lady Bobcats coach Andi Clark said O'Neil is where she needs to be at this point in the season.
"Thalia's on top of her game, most definitely," Clark said. "She's consistently doing her job for us right now."
Shiprock coach Levi Toledo said this season was a learning experience for his young team, which fielded only four seniors. He also acknowledged that the gap in experience between his players and Bloomfield's is vast.
"They're young. I hope they'll learn from this," Toledo said. "You know, Bloomfield, some of them play year round. My girls, a lot of them play basketball and volleyball, and that's tough to do. I hope the young ones learned from this one."
Bloomfield will play No. 5 Cobre or No. 12 East Mountain in the second round at noon Wednesday in Rio Rancho. If Cobre prevails, Clark said she has to be prepared for some solid pitching out of the Lady Indians.
"I saw their best pitcher from last year. She throws in the high 50s," Clark said. "So we've really got to be ready for her. And Cobre's a good team, so we've really got to come ready to play."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.