Burly senior first baseman Bryce Bailey is batting .608 for the season and shares Texico’s team lead in home runs with seven. Photo by Mike Linn
By Dave Wagner
Texico senior Justin Loven admits he’s got a few butterflies heading into the Wolverines’ first postseason baseball appearance today, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m nervous, but I’m excited,” said Loven, who will start on the mound for the Wolverines (13-1) in a Class 1A/2A Region A semifinal game against Santa Fe Indians School (13-2-1) at Espanola. “I’ve been resting my arm for about a week to get ready for it.”
The Wolverines are champions of District 7, while the Braves lost a tie-breaker based on runs scored in the district and settled for second to tournament host McCurdy in District 2. Dora, runnerup to Texico, faces the Bobcats at 3 p.m., with the two winners advancing to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. championship game.
Today’s winners are also assured berths in state tournament competition May 13-15 in Albuquerque.
Loven, who plays shortstop when he doesn’t pitch, is hitting .563 for the season and shares the team’s home run lead with senior Bryce Bailey at seven.
In terms of pitching, though, he said he’d feel more comfortable if he knew something about the opposition.
“I’m kind of nervous about this team,” he said of SFIS. “In district, we haven’t really had a lot of competition, so I don’t know what to expect when we play some better teams.”
Texico coach Richard Luscombe also doesn’t know much about the Braves, either, although he has talked to a few coaches.
“They’ve got some kids that hit the ball pretty well,” he said. “Their catcher (Allen Gachupin) is about 6-1 or 6-2 and 220 pounds and a good athlete, and they’ve got a couple other kids who are good athletes.
“They remind me a lot of us.”
Junior shortstop Braden Vaughan leads a potent Texico attack with a .655 batting average (38-of-58), while Bailey has a .608 batting mark in 51 trips to the plate.
Both of those players are scheduled to compete later this week in Class 2A state track and field competition, also in Albuquerque.
Texico, advancing to the postseason for the first time in the program’s three-year history, remains unranked in the Albuquerque Journal’s 1A/2A baseball coaches’ poll despite its record. Loven said it may take some success in the postseason to get noticed.
“Maybe they’re just not looking at us,” he said. “It might be they’re judging us on the past two years.”
The Wolverines have won 11 in a row since their only loss at the hands of the Hobbs junior varsity in an early tournament in Hobbs.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to play well,” Luscombe said. “Justin’s going to have to pitch well, but I think his confidence level is up.”
Class 1A/2A Region A
Texico vs. Santa Fe Indian School, 11 a.m.
McCurdy vs. Dora, 3 p.m.
Championship, 4 p.m