Lady Dons make final four

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By Dave Kavanaugh

In the end, only District 2-3A rival Raton — and really, just one or two productive innings — stood in the way of a spot in the state championship game.

West Las Vegas shocked third-seeded Portales 11-4 in the first round of the Class 3A state softball tournament on Friday in Las Cruces.

Then the Lady Dons, the 14th seeded team in the field, upended sixth-seeded Miyamura 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

Those two upsets moved West into a Saturday morning semifinal matchup with Raton — the district champion and the No. 2 team in the state.

The Lady Dons struck hard early on, grabbing a 5-2 advantage midway through the second inning.

But the Lady Tigers stormed back with four runs in their half of the frame for a 6-5 lead.

Raton added an insurance run in each of two middle innings and deployed its usual shutdown brand of pitching to seal an 8-5 victory.

The Lady Tigers went on to extend No. 1 Bloomfield to a ninth inning before succumbing 7-3 in Saturday afternoon’s championship game.

The final four appearance for West Las Vegas was a stellar conclusion to an intriguing season for head coach Lucas Griego and his team.

The Lady Dons began the year with strong reinforcements — headlined by the addition of several transfers from crosstown rival Robertson — joining a good core of returners. The team put together a string of early wins and earned top 10 rankings in the New Mexico High School Coaches Association poll. In the season-opening Cobre Invitational, the team nipped St. Michael’s 6-5 en route to a respectable fourth-place finish.

Beginning in late March, however, the team hit a rough patch and lost eight in a row. That stretch did include some difficult opponents like Portales, Goddard and St. Mike’s.

The onset of the district schedule was a mixed bag — not surprising given the usual competitive nature of the division, which has sent any number of different combinations of teams to the state tournament in recent years.

But West won six of its last nine games to lock up an 11-15 overall record and a 7-8 mark in district.

The team will lose seniors Amber Lucero (pitcher), Kris Padilla (catcher), Bryanna Salas (outfielder) and Angelica Salazar (outfielder). Lucero, one of two main starters on the mound, has been steady and reliable in that capacity and elsewhere. Salazar, another veteran of the program, has been a quick hitter, dangerous base runner and effective defensive player.

Expected to return will be juniors Jordan Lopez, Jessica Sandoval, Francine Solano; sophomores Larrissa Gallegos, Cristina Pacheco, Mariquita Zamora; and freshmen Stacee Aguilar, Selena Contreras, Marissa Cordova, Amanda Garcia, Gabriella “Gabby” Griego and Shannon Sandoval.

Note: Ninth-seeded Pecos lost 7-6 to eighth-seeded Navajo Prep on Friday in the first round of the Class 1A-2A state softball tourney, also in Las Cruces. Top seed Loving was the eventual champ, beating No. 2 Capitan 8-4 in Saturday’s final.