Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Baseball State Championships Go Up for Grabs.(West Side Journal)

Byline: James Yodice Journal Staff Writer

St. Pius Becomes Class 4A Favorite

Luke Hopkins has heard the rumor.

He'd rather spread it.

"I've never had the feeling of winning a state championship," said Hopkins, St. Pius X High School's lumberjack-looking senior third baseman. "From what I hear, it's something you never forget your whole life."

With the host team safely tucked away for the rest of the year, the Sartans (19-7) assumed the mantle as favorite when the Class 4A state baseball tournament begins Friday afternoon at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

St. Pius meets Deming (20-7) at 5 p.m., followed at 7:45 by Onate vs. Moriarty.

After Deming upset the Scorpions 8-4 in the regionals, the Sartans became the primary target.

"I like it that way," said Hopkins, one of the best all-around players in the state regardless of classification. "I like knowing they have to beat you."

St. Pius expected to be playing Farmington in the semifinals, a matchup that would have featured the top two teams in Class 4A.

"(Farmington being gone) opens up a lot of doors for us, but we still have to get ready for Deming," said senior outfielder Brad Culling. "It puts a lot of pressure on us. People think we should win state now that Farmington is out of it."

The Sartans could scarcely be more seasoned. They scheduled a handful of games against some of the elite teams in Class 5A Del Norte, Valley (twice), Cibola (twice), Clovis and Carlsbad and with one exception held their own in every game. …

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