FARMINGTON — The Aztec softball team battled through one of the most difficult tournaments in the state and came up one win short of the title.
The Lady Tigers finished in second place at Clevland's Kristen Griego Memorial tournament, losing to Rio Rancho 15-1 in the final on Saturday at Cleveland High School.
"We just ran out of gas," Aztec head coach Jose Santistevan said. "We just played a lot of innings, and it caught up with us."
Aztec (15-1) played five games in two days at the tournament and defeated three 5A teams — Gadsden, Carlsbad and Cleveland — and 4A Centennial to reach the final.
"We went there knowing that our side of the bracket was tough," Santistevan said. "We knew we'd have to fight our tails off, and our girls played about as well as I've ever seen."
On Friday, the Lady Tigers breezed through Gadsden 13-0 and then defeated Centennial 9-3 to set up a matchup with Carlsbad, currently the No. 1 5A team on MaxPreps.com.
Aztec advanced past the Cavemen 2-1 to reach Saturday's semifinals.
In the semifinal round, Aztec defeated Cleveland 6-4 in 10 innings, before running into Rio Rancho in the finals.
The Lady Rams, ranked No. 1 in 5A in the coaches' poll, cruised in the final and snapped the Lady Tigers' 15-game winning streak to open the season.
Santistevan said the experience his players gained will go a long way to preparing them for the state tournament in May.
"We just have a little more work to do," he said. "It had all the feel of the state tournament. Rio Rancho is a good team, and we'll be OK. I'm not going to fret over this one game."
Farmington and Bloomfield also participated in the tournament and picked up key wins.
FHS defeated Sandia and Belen, while Bloomfield got an extra inning victory against Clovis.
In other notable games at the tournament, Kirtland Central knocked off Navajo Prep 21-2, and Shiprock pulled an upset against 5A Mayfield.