KC's wild playoff ride ends against Hope 5-3
Navajo Prep loses to Jemez Valley, is bounced from 3A tourney
- Kirtland Central will graduate three seniors, including starting first and third basemen.
- Lady Eagles are set to return all but one player from this year's No. 4 seeded team.
RIO RANCHO — The Cinderella story of the Kirtland Central softball team's playoff run finally came to an end today at the hands of Hope Christian.
After a thrilling opening-round comeback win over No. 9 West Las Vegas on Saturday, eighth-seeded KC lost to No. 1 Robertson 13-3 Wednesday, before catching fire in the 4A consolation bracket.
The Lady Broncos first eliminated fourth-seeded Bloomfield today — the first time they defeated the Lady Bobcats in four tries this year — and then went on to stun No. 2 Portales with a 6-5 walk-off win later in the day to reach the semifinal consolation round. There, KC finally fell, losing 5-3 to No. 3 Hope Christian at the Rio Rancho Softball Complex.
"I could not ask for more of those girls. They left it all out there, I could tell," said first-year Lady Broncos coach Cody Gilmore. "We just ran out of gas. That's all there is to it."
KC (20-11) blew two separate leads in the Portales (23-7) game, leading to a 5-5 tie by the bottom of the seventh inning. Lady Broncos sophomore Dominique McGilbert came into the game on fire and proceeded to play the hero in the seventh by crushing a 2-0 pitch out of the park for a walk-off home run.
"I heard their coach yelling, 'Don't throw it over the plate,' and that's exactly what their girl did," Gilmore said of McGilbert's at-bat. "You knew it was gone the second her bat touched it."
Gilmore said he was proud of his team's toughness and how his players responded to every Portales comeback with a comeback of their own. There would be no comeback, though, against the Lady Huskies (27-5).
Three hours after bouncing Portales from the tourney today, the Lady Broncos carried that momentum into a showdown with Hope. Behind Moriah Toledo's two-RBI double, KC skipped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead and added another on an RBI base knock from McGilbert in the second.
But playing four games into two days finally took its toll on the Lady Broncos after the second inning. Hope went on to score five unanswered runs in the game, and KC went ice cold from the dish, managing just two hits in its last 16 at-bats.
Shiloh Lewis, who pitched in all but three innings of KC's five-game playoff run, was roughed up for three runs in the second, but rebounded, allowing just two runs in the final four frames. She struck out four Lady Huskies in the loss.
Gilmore will lose three seniors from this year's roster — including starters Jaelyn Clichee and Madison Love — but is excited to see what happens next year after what he believes was a character-building state tourney run.
"We're moving up to 5A next year, and that's going to be extremely tough, but this week was a step in the right direction," Gilmore said. "Our girls found out they could play with anybody."
Jemez Valley 10, Navajo Prep 4
Navajo Prep couldn’t catch enough breaks and saw its softball season come to an end at the A/3A state tournament this morning in Rio Rancho.
The No. 4 Lady Eagles advanced to the second day of the tournament after splitting their two games Wednesday and met No. 8 Jemez Valley (20-3), losing 10-4 in an elimination game.
"We had some tough breaks. Some of the younger girls were a little nervous playing in the state tournament for the first time. It was typical woes of kids who haven’t played very much," Prep head coach Bryan Heaston said. "It’s just sometimes our bats went dead. It happens. Teams are going to struggle from time to time."
As they did all tournament, the Lady Eagles (16-7) fell behind early in the game and needed to rally in the late innings to keep their season alive. But the magic that lifted them to a 12-10 win over Estancia in extra innings Wednesday couldn’t be mustered.
"We started fighting back a little bit at the end, but we just fell short. We had a great run, and obviously we wanted to do better, so it’s tough," Heaston said.
Prep will now turn its attention to next season. The Lady Eagles will graduate just one player from this season’s team and will return four freshmen — Tayiah Lewis, Taina Sandoval, Mary Smith and Taylor Yazzie — who earned all-district honors this season.
Heaston said he would also like to see the team create a tougher non-district schedule to prepare it for next year’s state tournament.
"The future looks bright for Navajo Prep softball," Heaston said. "I’m super proud of the girls and what they accomplished this year.”
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.