Tucumcari somehow still alive for postseason


April 24, 2019

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari pitcher EJ Martinez delivers a pitch during the second game of a doubleheader April 16 against Sandia Prep.

The Tucumcari baseball team lost four more games last week, extending its losing streak to 15.

Improbably enough, the Rattlers (1-17) still have a chance for a postseason berth if they can string together a few wins.

That's because of the Rattlers' strength of schedule. A look at the latest coaches' poll of Class 3A teams reveals four of the teams in Tucumcari's District 4/5 - Sandia Prep, East Mountain, New Mexico Military Institute and Dexter - each are ranked in the top 10 in the state. Two other Tucumcari foes this season – Robertson and West Las Vegas – also are ranked in the top 10 of Class 3A.

"We are the No. 1 team in terms of strength of schedule in 3A," Tucumcari coach Dwayne Roberts said. "We have a good shot of getting in because of that strength of schedule. We're definitely still in the running, especially if we can get a couple of wins on the road."

Tucumcari faces single district games in the coming weeks instead of doubleheaders, also a more favorable setting for his thin pitching corps. It allows Roberts to use his two best pitchers, Ryan Birch and EJ Martinez, in a single game if he must.

"Hypothetically, there's a chance," Roberts said.

That chance became tougher last week when the Rattlers lost starting first baseman Isaac Arias for the season because of a leg injury during a 23-5 loss in the first game April 16 against Sandia Prep. Roberts also ejected an infielder from the team during that twinbill because of insubordination.

Tucumcari trailed just 5-3 after two innings and 6-3 after three in the first game. The Rattlers scored those runs in the first inning on three hits and two errors.

But Sandia Prep kept piling on runs, including a 10-run seventh. Arias scored a run in the fifth but injured his leg while sliding on the play, ending his season. Tucumcari added a run when Joey Dysart was hit by a pitch and scored on Andrew Casteel's double.

In the nightcap, Sandia Prep fireball pitcher Joseph Romero allowed just one hit – an infield single by starting pitcher EJ Martinez – and struck out 12 in a 23-0 game shortened to five innings.

Sandia Prep (8-12) pounded out 17 hits and draw eight walks, including home runs by Romero and Isaac Horstman.

On Saturday, Tucumcari dropped a doubleheader at Estancia (13-3) by scores of 8-0 and 19-3. No other details of the games were available.

Roberts had high hopes for his team after advancing to the state quarterfinals a year ago. He acknowledged he was mystified why his team "went south" this season.

"If I had the answer to that million-dollar question ..." he said after the Sandia Prep doubleheader. "I don't have an answer, because we're playing some of the same teams we did last year."

Dora 2-35, Grady 1-5

It's not often a pitcher strikes out 18 in a game and loses. But that's what happened to Grady/San Jon ace Chisum Rush during a 2-1 loss to Dora on Friday.

Dora (8-2) managed just five hits and three walks against the Bronchos (2-7).

"He embarrasses every team he faces," Bronchos coach Jared Piepkorn said of Rush. "But we just can't win the game for him. We have an error that gives up unearned runs to give up the lead. Our baseball experience as a team is low."

With Rush out of the way in the second game, Dora scored in double digits in the first, third and fourth innings en route to a 35-5 win. Dora totaled 14 hits, 23 walks and eight hit batters.

"We are getting better every game," Piepkorn said. "Win or lose, I love these kids."

Gateway Christian 13-11, Logan 0-0

Dora 11, Logan 1

Logan was shut out during a doubleheader Friday at undefeated Gateway Christian in Roswell.

The Longhorns (3-10) managed three hits in the first game against pitcher Jaydon Stephens, who struck out 11. Game 2 starter Chase Winkler scattered three hits and fanned nine for Gateway Christian (9-0).

Against Dora on April 15, Logan allowed seven runs in the fifth inning during an 11-1 loss. Dora used a committee of three pitchers that allowed just three hits.


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