Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Lady Rattlers' comeback bid falls short


May 15, 2019

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari third baseman Aislynn Shiplet jumps to make a stabbing catch on a line drive from a Hatch Valley batter early in a playoff game Wednesday at Rattler Field.

The Tucumcari softball team made a comeback bid from a double-digit deficit but fell 17-14 to Hatch Valley in its first-round Class 3A playoff game played over a two-day period at Rattler Field because of rain.

On Wednesday, the ninth-seeded Bears (13-10) blasted six home runs to take a 13-2 lead over the eighth-seeded Lady Rattlers (17-5) when umpires suspended the game after four innings because of lightning and heavy rain.

When the game resumed Thursday, the Lady Rattlers scored four runs in the fifth and eight in the sixth to close the deficit to three and seemingly had the Bears on the ropes. But Hatch Valley retired the side in order in the seventh to secure the victory. The Bears face No. 1-seeded Robertson on Wednesday.

Tucumcari coach CJ Oglesby said he was pleasantly surprised by his team's spirited rally from a double-digit deficit Thursday.

"To be honest, I though we would come out flat after the rain, the letdown and the score," he said. "I'm really proud of them for keeping their heads up and playing with character and pride."

The Bears hit eight home runs during the regular season. They came close to matching that total Wednesday by hitting six home runs and nearly hit a seventh with deep ground-rule double that bounced over the fence.

Hatch Valley coach Kristi Estrada said her team was capable of big hitting numbers.

"We came out, and everybody was doing what we needed to do - hit the pitches they needed to hit, and hit them hard," she said.

Hatch Valley began the barrage in the first inning when Victoria Terrazas and Destiny Whitlock hit back-to-back home runs for a 2-0 lead.

Oglesby said his starting pitcher, Jayden Jimenez, didn't have the same velocity as earlier in the season because of a pinched nerve in her shoulder.

"It's been haunting her," he said of the injury. "We've been trying to baby it and keep her out of practice from throwing. She was limited, but I was really proud of her for coming out the way she did and battling through it."

Hatch Valley's Makenzie Williams blasted a two-run homer in the second. In the third, Terrazas hit a two-run homer and Whitlock added a solo blast for an 8-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Tucumcari struggled against hard-throwing pitcher Terrazas. The Lady Rattlers scored two in the third on an infield hit, two walks and Alexus Laffery's RBI single. Jasmine Jones also drove in a run when she was hit in the ankle by a pitch with the bases loaded.

The Bears answered with six in the fourth, including a two-run double by Carolina Trejo and a three-run homer by Megan Montez.

Umpires halted the game after the inning because of lightning. Heavy rain then drenched the field, rendering it unplayable, and flooded the dugouts. Officials suspended the contest until Thursday.

On Thursday, Oglesby told his team to be more patient at the plate against Terrazas.

"Yesterday, I saw she was hurting with her arm," he said. "I knew her sitting with her sore arm overnight, not being at home, being in a motel, coming out on a cold day, I knew she was going to struggle. We were going to try to make her throw as many pitches as possible. We were taking pitches until she got a strike on us."

Took pitches the Lady Rattlers did. Terrazas walked four batters in the fifth, setting up bases-loaded walks by Paige Moralez and Aislynn Shiplet, plus Kalani French's two-run single.

Terrazas walked six more in the sixth, setting up RBI singles by Gabriella Gray and Erica Vasquez and a two-run double by Melanie Jones. Loren Chavez, French and Moralez also drew bases-loaded walks for runs. Tucumcari soon trailed just 17-14, with Terrazas looking rattled. That led to a Hatch Valley conference with the pitcher during the inning.

"I told her she needed to stay calm," Estrada said. "She knows she can pitch, and she knows what she can do."

Terrazas recovered by striking out the next two batters to end the sixth, then striking out the side in order in the last inning. She ended the game with 17 strikeouts, 14 walks and three hit batters.

The Lady Rattlers lose just two seniors - first baseman Melanie Jones and center fielder French. Though Tucumcari had just finished with the best season in the program's history, Oglesby said he was setting his sights higher.

"There was a lot of improvement and dedication," he said. "We're going to hit the weight room. Off-season's going to get going, and we're going to get better."


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