Prep baseball LLHS, VHS to host first-round series', BHS travels to Pius

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The Valencia baseball team snagged the No. 4 seed and their league, District 6-4A, placed five teams in the Class 4A State Tournament ― something that testifies to the league's toughness, said VHS coach Carlos Carrasco.

"No team in this district has gone undefeated in the four years it's existed, that just shows how tough it is," he said. "There's not a district that's as solid, one through six, as ours has been."

All three Valencia County prep baseball teams made the post-season with district runners-up Los Lunas snagging the No. 8 seed and Belen checking in at No. 14. All three teams begin play in their best 2-of-3 series' Friday. The tournament then turns into a single-elimination tourney in the quarterfinals, which begins Thursday at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.

Valencia (19-7) hosts No. 12 Espaňola Valley (18-8) in a rematch. The Jags hosted the Sundevils already this season, beating them 4-3 in a close game at the end of March.

Carrasco said he expects the series to be similar to the game the two teams played earlier in the season.

"They came in second in their district and played us pretty tough," he said. "They've improved, I'm sure. But we've improved too."

The Jags double-header losses to No. 2 seed Roswell Goddard last weekend put a dent in VHS's hopes of claiming the No. 2 seed themselves, but the losses also put the Jaguars in a post-season mind set, Carrasco said.

"Those two teams went at it," he said of the two-games. "It was a playoff-type atmosphere. Those are the type of games that give you the kind of experience you need in the playoffs."

Also starting series' Friday is Los Lunas (16-9), which earned the No. 8 seed and hosts No. 9 Deming (14-12) while No. 14 Belen (14-10) travels to play at defending state champions, No. 3 St. Pius (16-8) this weekend.

The Eagles come into the post-season on a four-game losing streak, including a pair of setbacks to Valencia and Los Lunas. BHS coach Steve Contreras said playing their series close to home is a plus, but said the Spartans are a tough draw.

"They don't make mistakes," he said. "They not going to give you anything. We have to play the same way. We can't give them extra base runners or make defensive mistakes.

We need to get runners in scoring position and find a way to manufacture runs."

The Tigers' already challenging series against Deming got tougher on Monday when the team found out that four starters were suspended for violations of the school's athletic guidelines.

Desi Garcia, director of security for Los Lunas Schools, said six Los Lunas High School students, including the four athletes, were found on campus and "appeared to be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs" by the Los Lunas/Valencia County Underage Drinking Task Force at about 9:30 p.m., Saturday.

"Some of the those students were athletes and they will be sanctioned according to the Los Lunas Schools athletic handbook," Garcia said.

The students were not cited, but task force members called their parents and had them picked up.

LLHS coach Pete Candelaria said due to privacy laws, he could not identify the students but confirmed that the players included two outfielders, one infielder and a pitcher.

"It's a big blow," he said, adding that Los Lunas pulled two players up from the junior varsity. "We'll be at an 11-man roster, probably throughout the playoffs."

The visiting Wildcats won their district but were still sent on the road by the NMAA. On Monday, Candelaria and his staff were still trying to gather info on Deming, but the coach said hosting a playoff series was a good break for his team.

"It's an 8 seed playing a 9, but we're still content with it," he said. "If we can play decent baseball, the odds of winning two of three get better."