By Kevin Wilson
PORTALES — With a 2 for 4 night, three RBIs and the go-ahead single, Iszac Valdez showed that the American All-Star pitchers weren’t causing him any trouble.
Later on, strep throat was trouble for the Roosevelt catcher, and the ruling that ensued helped pave the way for an unusual 17-15 win for visiting American Monday night at Rotary Park.
Roosevelt will remain home for tonight’s game, a 7 p.m. matchup against Clovis Zia. Quay County will host American on the strength of a 7-6 win against Zia on Tuesday.
Valdez had been battling with strep throat in the days leading up to the 9-10 year old Tri-County All-Star Tournament, but didn’t let it show through the first five innings. His one-out single in the fifth plated two runs to give Roosevelt a 13-12 lead.
With Roosevelt up 15-12 entering the bottom of the fifth, Valdez was deemed too sick to play by his coaching staff. Roosevelt had already used all of its substitutions, so league rules allowed American to choose Valdez’ replacement.
“It’s in the rule book,” American manager Hector Marquez said. “We try not to abuse it, but sometimes it works to our advantage.”
Roosevelt had a difficult time adjusting to the defensive changes forced by the ruling. Lathan Lieb, the Roosevelt shortstop turned catcher, didn’t do a bad job filling in considering the circumstances.
Still, American took advantage. Kyle Wornell and Jared Allen each had RBI singles to cut the deficit, then an errant throw on Seth Zarate’s sacrifice bunt eventually turned into three unearned runs that accounted for the third and final lead change of the night.
Allen, the fourth pitcher on the night, got the win thanks to stellar defense in a 1-2-3 sixth.
Third baseman Adrian Loya made an over-the-shoulder catch to rob Andrew Villanueva of a bloop single, then Allen induced a pair of groundouts to second to end the game.
In the end, Roosevelt coach Rene Marquez said it came down to, “mental errors.”
“They played well,” Marquez said, “but they over-exerted themselves trying to make plays.”
Marquez admitted that losing Valdez became somewhat of a psychological blow to his team, as well. Now that Roosevelt is in the losers’ bracket, he added that the team can’t make excuses anymore.
“It’s do or die now,” Marquez said. “We’ve got to step it up.”
Quay County 7, Zia 6 — Quay County, the visiting team on its home field in Tucumcari, rallied for two runs in the top of the sixth to stay in the winners bracket.
Zia took a 2-0 lead on a two-run single by Phillip Martinez in the first. Quay answered with a five-run fourth, but Zia regained a 6-5 advantage with four runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Martinez went 3 for 3 with three RBIs for Zia. Starting pitcher Adam Anaya, who struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings, and Jake Lopez each added a pair of hits for Zia.