Peerman's Power Rankings: 10 best things in New Mexico sports this week (May 7)

May 6—Welcome to Peerman's Power Rankings (PPR), the 10 athletes, teams and story lines that have Journal sports editor Lucas Peerman's attention.

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10. Jadrian Martinez

A senior pitcher for New Mexico Highlands, he was named Rocky Mountain Athletic Pitcher of the Week last week. Martinez was outstanding in pitching a complete game against 11th-ranked Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction on April 27. Martinez, a Socorro native, struck out three and did not allow an extra base hit in the Cowboys' 3-1 victory over CMU, the RMAC's second-highest scoring team.

9. Sam Hilliard

No one has hit more home runs in an Isotopes uniform than Hilliard, who smacked his 67th homer last week against the Round Rock Express. Hilliard broke Jordan Patterson's (2016-18) mark of 66. "It's certainly an honor for me. Having a record of any kind is a really cool accomplishment and I just feel super blessed that I've been able to have that type of success here," said Hilliard, who has played parts of five seasons in the Majors with both the Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves.

8. Next man up

New Mexico United climbed to second in the USLC Western Conference on Saturday after turning off the Las Vegas Lights 2-1 in a road match. Due to injuries, three players who might have been relegated to reserve roles got the call to start for United — Daniel Bruce at attacker, Nanan Houssou at forward and Abdi Mohamed at left back. And boy did they answer. Brucey scored both of NMU's goals, one on a assist from Houssou. And Mohamed, who signed a 25-day contract with the team the day prior, played "incredible," according to coach Eric Quill.

7. JT Toppin

OK, OK, so he's abandoning UNM. I get it if he's not in your power rankings, but Toppin — who had one of the best freshman seasons in Mountain West basketball history — was invited to the NBA Draft Combine, a showcase of the prospects NBA executives most want to see before they make a selection in next month's draft. MWC POY Jaeden LeDee's invitation got lost in the mail. Let that sink in. After the combine, Toppin must decide whether to stay in the draft or take his name out of consideration and return to college, but it won't be at UNM since he's entered the transfer portal. If JT does hear his name called on June 26 or 27, he'd become the first Lobo in 10 years to be drafted (Cameron Bairstow in 2014). UNM fans, if he gets drafted and never goes to another school, he immediately becomes a Lobo legend, right?

6. Grant and Kiera Vlaun

These La Cueva siblings each earned a spot on top of the podium at the Albuquerque metro track and field championships last week. Kiera Vlaun, a senior, finished first in the triple jump with a mark of 35 feet, 10 3/4 inches. Grant Vlaun, a junior, dominated the pole vault. Most of the competitors went out at 12 feet. Not Grant. He cleared 13 feet, then 13-6, then 14-6 on his final attempt, tying his personal best mark of the season. He's hoping to clear 15 feet at the state championships.

5. UNM baseball

Winners of nine of their last 13 games, the Lobos are now tied for first (with Fresno State) in the Mountain West Conference. The team has been solid hitting the ball all season and now ranks eighth nationally with a .322 batting average. Junior outfielder Khalil Walker is fifth in the nation with a .423 average. The Lobos also rank high in hits (18th), doubles (tied for 15th) and on-base percentage (10th).

4. Keith Jones II

This New Mexico State slugger is having a senior season to remember. The outfielder is leading Conference USA in batting average, slugging average, runs, hits and RBIs. He's second in the conference in doubles and triples. Coming into the weekend, Jones was in the top 20 in four hitting categories nationally: He was tied for sixth in hits, tied for eighth in total bases, ninth in RBIs and tied for 18th in runs. In this weekend's 2-1 home series win over Louisiana Tech, Jones was 5-for-13, scored seven runs, had six RBIs and hit three homers.

3. Moogie

Malie Satete, a West Las Vegas slugger known by her nickname "Moogie," catapulted onto the state sports scene last week when she blasted her 20th homer of the year last week, tying New Mexico's single-season softball home record — which Cibola's Jalyn Montes established just last year. Satete has four more regular season games, and then district and state games, in which to break the record. And even if she doesn't break it this season, Satete — an eighth-grader! — still has four years of high school remaining.

2. Brodie Young

UNM's top 400-meter runner will be going to Paris. This weekend, Young helped his native Great Britain's mixed 4x400-meter relay team qualify for the 2024 Olympics. According to the university, there are a number of Lobo track athletes and alums that may also be in Paris. Young's UNM track teammate Habtom Samuel has secured the Olympic qualifying standard. Among the alums, Calli Thackery has been named to the British marathon team and 1500-meter world champ Josh Kerr is likely to represent Great Britain. Three other Lobo alums are in contention for spots in the Olympics — Weini Keilati (USA), Adva Cohen (Israel) and Courtney Frerichs (USA).

1. Copa de la Diversión

Minor League Baseball's Copa de la Diversión (fun league) incentivizes teams to honor ties to their communities' Hispanic/Latino populations, including by donning an alter ego. The Albuquerque Isotopes become Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico, for example. This promotion has been a hit in the Duke City, and Sunday's Mariachis game on Cinco de Mayo drew more than 12,000 fans, the second highest attendance in all of MILB this season. Here are 10 other Copa de la Diversión alter egos that you should know about:

Pointy Boots de Amarillo (Amarillo Sod Poodles)Paletas de Beloit (Beloit Sky Carp)Avocados Luchadores de Down East (Down East Wood Ducks)El Paso Margaritas (El Paso Chihuahuas)Pepinillos Picantes del Norte (Great Lakes Loons) — the "hot pickles"Cucuys de San Bernardino (Inland Empire 66ers)Cocos Locos de Rochester (Rochester Red Wings) — a coconut cocktailRound Rock Chupacabras (Round Rock Express)Flying Chanclas de San Antonio (San Antonio Missions)Cabritos Maldichos de South Bend (South Bend Cubs) — the "cursed goats"

Honorable mention

Metro golf: Albuquerque Academy's Anya Parasher and St. Pius' Cade Freeze were the individual champions last week at Los Altos Golf Course at the Albuquerque Metro Championships, with the Academy girls and La Cueva boys taking the team titles.

Miami Dolphins: Kudos to the NFL team striving to be the Land of Enchantment. The Dolphins signed two undrafted free agents with New Mexico ties: Offensive lineman (and former Lobo basketball player) Bayron Matos and UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison, a star at Hobbs High School.

Mariah Duran: This Albuquerque native is ranked No. 2 in the U.S. in women's street skateboarding and is eyeing a return to the Olympics after representing the Red, White and Blue in Tokyo in 2021. "It was during the pandemic, so we didn't really have a crowd ..." she said. "So I feel like that was motivation for me to do this second one, so I can get the real feel for it."

End of the bench

Cristian Nava was living the dream — from Albuquerque High soccer star, to New Mexico United Academy standout to signing a professional contract and making valuable contributions in the first two games he played with NMU, his hometown team. Then, Nava tore up his knee during a friendly against the University of Washington at St. Pius High School in 2023. He rehabbed, regained his speed and strength and was cleared to rejoin the team in April 2024. Then, before he was able to play in a match this year, Nava tore up his knee — again. Out for the season — again. Get well soon, Cristian. We hope to see you in Black and Yellow — again.

Catch Nava in the Trevor Noah-produced miniseries "The World According to Football."