Los Lunas baseball eliminates Volcano Vista, and things got ugly

May 13—Volcano Vista had the first four runs. And the last four. Los Lunas owned everything in between.

This was the simplest explanation of what transpired Monday afternoon and evening on the West Side.

The Tigers put up crooked numbers in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and Class 5A baseball's No. 11 seed ousted No. 6 Volcano Vista 15-8 in a nearly three-hour battle to secure the last of the eight quarterfinal slots in the state tournament.

"We got the players together, we told them that four runs is nothing, that we've been here before," Los Lunas coach Paul Cieremans said.

The series took four days to complete, because of rain/field issues on Saturday that delayed Game 3 to Monday. Los Lunas (19-10) won Games 2 and 3 and won the series 2-1. It will face Cleveland at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Jennifer Riordan Spark Kindness Complex in the quarters.

This was a game that had it all ... unfortunately.

Let's attempt to take inventory.

There were the 23 runs, of course. Los Lunas' Jasiah Byers had a career-high six RBIs, five of them coming on bases-loaded hits in the fourth and fifth innings.

There were six hit batsmen. There were a combined 16 walks. Nine combined pitchers — the last of the nine, the Tigers' Jonah Utash, actually was late to the game because he played in the state golf tournament earlier in the day — and was in third place entering Tuesday's final round.

And, most notably, three ejections. The first two were Volcano Vista players, tossed on the same play in the bottom of the fourth. It was not immediately known if the third ejection, in the seventh, was issued to a Hawks coach or player.

"They were upset with the umpiring. That's what I saw," Cieremans said.

He wasn't wrong.

"I don't think the heat was necessarily between the two teams," Volcano Vista coach Todd Flores said. "There were some calls we don't think necessarily went our way. And we saw some things that we thought should have been called both ways and (the umpires) didn't see that."

Byers said there were some issues when these two teams played each other at the Hobbs tournament earlier this season. "And we never forgot that," he said.

The end of this game was ugly and unseemly.

In the seconds after the last pitch was thrown, a called strike three, Volcano Vista's Alijah Gonzales had to be physically restrained by multiple people as he appeared to go after the home plate umpire, who had ejected all three Hawks in this game and was under verbal barrage from the Hawks' dugout throughout.

A Volcano Vista assistant coach was observed putting an angry forefinger multiple times into the chest of the plate umpire after the game.

New Mexico Activities Association executive director Sally Marquez told the Journal on Monday night that she was already reviewing the game film.

If Volcano Vista is issued a strike under the NMAA's new "two strike" initiative that went into effect for the 2023-24 school year, it would carry over to the 2025 season. The Hawks have not had a strike issued to the baseball team this year.

Whatever issues arose with umpiring, it wasn't any of that that led to Los Lunas pounding Volcano Vista pitching for seven runs in the fourth, three more in the fifth, and five additional tallies in the sixth.

To begin, the Hawks (20-9) scored twice in each of the first two innings and left multiple runners on base in both innings.

But Los Lunas sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth; Byers' bases-loaded, three-RBI triple to the left-field wall was the crucial blow. Matty Castillo drove in two more on a single, and Volcano Vista hit a batter and walked a batter, both with the bases loaded.

Byers added a two-RBI single in the fifth, and Fabian Trujillo hit a solo home run to left. Byers hit a sacrifice fly in the five-run sixth.

"I had a bad first two games," Byers said, "but I came out with my boys' support."

As for the first two Volcano Vista ejections, both happened within seconds of each other. Leadoff batter Izach Benavidez was hit in the back by a pitch; Flores said later he wasn't sure what Benavidez said to the plate umpire to get ejected.

Benavidez's teammate in the on-deck circle, Hunter Martinez, raced out and angrily confronted the umpire after Benavidez was ejected, and Martinez was immediately tossed.

The other series that ended Monday had Albuquerque Academy, the No. 6 seed in Class 4A, closing a 4-2 victory over 11th-seeded Los Alamos. The Chargers only needed to get two outs to finish the victory.