QCS Senior Writer
The (7-8) (4-5) Logan Longhorns and (13-9) (4-5) Tucumcari Rattlers are scheduled to play today in the first round of the 1A and 2A state baseball tournament.
Both teams will be facing tougher opponents that either has seen during the regular season.
The eighth-seed Longhorns jump right into heavy-duty competition as they travel to Roswell to battle the first-seed (15-4) (9-0) Gateway Christian Warriors.
“We have not played or seen Gateway Christian in action this season,” Kene Terry, the Longhorns’ coach, said. “We are going into this game with caution and curiosity.”
Terry said efforts to schedule a game against the Warriors failed earlier in the season.
“From what I have heard, their pitching will be an issue we will have to address,” Terry said.
The Warriors have allowed only three teams to score double digits against them this season. A 12-11 win over 2A Tularosa, a 13-6 loss to 2A New Mexico Military Institute and a 13-3 loss to 5A Hobbs JV.
After examining the Warriors’ record, Terry said the Longhorns will have to contain the Warriors in their first five at-bats and limit errors. He said 11 of the Warriors’ season wins have been by double-digit scores.
“This means that we need to have a clean game with strong innings out of our pitchers,” Terry said.
Taking the mound for the Longhorns first will be Wyatt Strand, a junior.
Terry said Strand had a strong game on April 29 against the Floyd Broncos despite the 6-2 loss. He said a few errors late in the game gave the Broncos the lead.
The Longhorns’ loss to Floyd resulted in the Broncos receiving the sixth seed, leaving the Longhorns with the eighth seed. The Broncos are on the road this week, facing third-seed Questa.
“Floyd is a team that came on late in the season and I can see them giving Questa a run for their money,” Terry said.
Game time is at 3 p.m., today at Roswell.
The Rattlers drew a 10th-seed, which pits them against the seventh-seed (9-16) (6-3) Eunice Cardinals in today’s action.
“We are expecting a good game against the Cardinals,” said Tony Alarcon, Rattlers head coach.
Alarcon said the Rattlers do not know much about the Cardinals. The Rattlers are expecting just about anything and are not looking past today’s foes.
“It’s the state tournament; you have to be ready for anything,” Alarcon said.
Alarcon said the team has the tools it needs to come away with a win against the Cardinals. The Rattlers should be looking to limit the Cardinals’ hits with their one-two punch pitching combo of Juniors Javier Villanueva and Saul Moriel, Alarcon said.
Villanueva has 44 strike outs this season and Moriel has been on a hot streak, striking out 11 batters in Friday’s 13-2 win over the Clayton Yellowjackets.
Alarcon said Moriel is currently second in strikeouts in the state with 94 this season.
“It all comes down to being consistent,” Moriel said. “I can throw the ball with some speed, but it does not do us any good if it’s not on the mark.”
Moriel said he will focus only on the batter at the plate, keep the runners in check and trust in his team to make the defensive plays.
Leading the Rattlers on defense is Senior Michael Olivas, team captain and shortstop.
“We need to lock everything down,” Olivas said. “We have to limit our errors while making the easy plays.”
Olivas said the team has to go for the easy out when it is available. By playing clean baseball and taking the easy outs, the Rattlers can keep the Cardinals out of scoring position.
On offense, the key to success is getting consistent hits throughout the line up, said Gabriel Molinas, junior left-fielder.
Molinas said the guys have to remember to swing level and not try to win the game with one swing.
“Coach has told us all season, look for the gaps in defense and concentrate on getting a base hit,” said Daniel Lopez, sophomore catcher.
Lopez said those base hits might not be home runs, but they can bring in the runner for the score.
Game time is at 5 p.m., today at Eunice.