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The long ball important to all the metro softball quarterfinal winners

Mar. 21—Home runs.

Those were an enormous part of the story as the Albuquerque Metro Softball Championships reached the quarterfinals at the Los Altos Complex on Thursday.

The long ball drove the narrative, to one degree or another, in each of the four matchups.

They were crucial to Rio Rancho. They were equally crucial to Volcano Vista.

And, in the day's final game, they were vital to the Cibola Cougars.

They were even important to the La Cueva Bears, whose game only lasted 2 1/2 innings.

By day's end, the Friday semifinals were set: La Cueva-Cibola at 3 p.m., with Rio Rancho and Volcano Vista starting at 5 p.m.

The Bears spent the least amount of time on the diamond Thursday, throttling Cleveland 16-0. La Cueva (7-3) scored eight runs in each of its two at-bats.

And in the first inning, Addisen Byers belted a three-run home run, and Lili Montoya added a two-run shot moments later for a quick 5-0 La Cueva lead.

Pitcher Hannah Hunt added a two-RBI single and the early rout was on.

"The shorter the games, the better," La Cueva coach Ron Romero said. His team has yet to play a home game this season. "We're pretty much ready for this (tournament) and we're excited for it."

The Bears' opponent Friday is Cibola (5-3), which led for most of the way against Albuquerque High, and the Cougars were at one point up six runs (7-1) with only nine outs left to record.

However, the Bulldogs scored five runs in the fifth, and two more in the bottom of the sixth to lead 8-7.

But Cibola put up 10 runs in the top of the seventh. Maci Melvin's two-run blast to left early in that rally made it 9-8, and the Cougars piled on from there.

"I think we got kind of down, let off the gas a little bit," said Melvin, who also earned the pitching victory in relief and who homered in consecutive at-bats in this game, including a solo shot in the fifth inning. "But we reminded everyone that we needed to get up, get excited, get ready to win this game."

Melvin's home run came with two strikes. And it was an unexpectedly meaty pitch.

"Right down the middle," she said. "Right what I wanted."

Rio Rancho and Sandia had a close quarterfinal. The Matadors in the top of the fifth inning Thursday were trailing the Rams 3-1 when sophomore pitcher Liliana Villanueva hit a two-run home run to tie the game.

But in the bottom half, Lilyrose Larrabee countered with a two-run home run to left field, as Rio Rancho (5-5) reclaimed the lead at 5-3. The Rams added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.

Destiny Gonzales also homered for Rio Rancho in the win, in the third inning.

Volcano Vista (3-6) was off to a 1-6 start before the Hawks arrived at metros on Tuesday. They had lost their three games prior to this tournament by a combined score of 49-11.

But Volcano Vista defeated Manzano in the first round on Tuesday, then staged the best rally of the day Thursday in coming from behind for a 10-7 victory over St. Pius.

The Sartans were leading 7-3 when the Hawks scored six runs in the sixth inning to take a 9-7 lead.

In her debut game this season for the Hawks, standout shortstop Sixx Arnold launched a three-run homer to give Volcano Vista the lead.

Sophomore pitcher Audrianna Jim also was appearing in her first game this season for the Hawks. She drove in two runs and also struck out 10 batters against St. Pius, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A.

NOTE: The first coaches' poll of the season was released this week. In 5A, only two metro schools were in the top 10 — La Cueva at No. 2 and AHS at No. 6.