By Eric Butler: Feedom Newspapers
It took 11 years for the San Jon baseball team to get back to the state tournament and, unfortunately for the Coyotes, it took all of five innings for the trip to be over.
In the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A tourney on Wednesday, San Jon (5-12) was clubbed 24-0 by top-seeded Gateway Christian in a game that was ended early by the ten-run mercy rule. Gateway, a private school in Roswell, then went on to beat Valley Christian 15-0 in the semifinals and Mesilla Valley 13-1 in the championship game on Saturday.
San Jon’s appearance at state, its first since 1992, was at Los Lunas High – where things looked relatively promising when Gateway managed only a run in the first inning of Coyotes’ senior pitcher Tyler Adams. In the bottom of the first, San Jon’s three batters were all struck out by Warriors’ pitcher Jared Wilson as Gateway took a 1-0 lead into the second.
While the trend of Wilson’s dominance over the Cardinals would continue for the rest of the game, Gateway Christian’s batters began to send home runners in waves starting in the second inning. A six-run sixth included a pair of doubles, two singles and a little help from San Jon in the form of three walks.
Adams, in the third, was able to hold the Warriors to another one-run inning, but Gateway rebounded with six more in the fourth and ten in the fifth – an inning that saw Will McEntire come in to spell Adams on the mound.
“They’re tough, but we played hard, had a good time. They’re a good bunch of kids and we’ve improved – that’s all you can ask for. We’re just tickled to be here,” said San Jon coach Waymond Ragland, whose squad was unable to register a hit against Gateway.
Winner of a two-team district over Grady, San Jon’s success over the Bronchos meant that the Coyotes got a bye into the state tournament.
On Wednesday, San Jon had little room for error or injury as only 10 players – including two girls – were in uniform.
“I had a couple quit. We should have had 19, then all of a sudden we only had ten,” said Ragland, Coyotes’ coach since 1992. “The thing that’s going to be hard is that they’re going to put 1A and 2A back together next year, so it’ll be a lot tougher to get up here.”