By Eric Butler
ALBUQUERQUE — Maybe it was because their teams either didn’t make the postseason or didn’t fare too well once getting there, but four small school baseballers from the east side of the state got off to a bit of a slow start compared to their all-star counterparts in the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Class 1A-2A series this weekend at Sandia Prep.
Fortunately for them, however, being part of a dominating South squad afforded plenty of time for growth.
The South bombarded their North counterparts for a total of 50 runs in sweeping the three-game series. After a 20-6 bludgeoning of the North on Friday, the South won Saturday’s doubleheader by counts of 18-12 and 12-1.
Two Texico players, Bryce Bailey and Justin Loven, were part of the winning squad — as were Dora’s Cody Machen and Floyd’s Wade Mobley.
“I’m not pleased with my performance, but I’m enjoying it,” Bailey said between games on Saturday. “I think I finally settled down. The butterflies from yesterday are over.”
Bailey started in the first game of the series, but was a victim of strikeouts all three times at the plate.
After another strikeout in the second contest, the Wolverines’ big first baseman patiently drew a crucial sixth-inning walk. In that frame, the South bounced back from a 12-7 deficit with eight runs.
The North grabbed the lead with an 11-run inning — a disastrous frame for several South hurlers including Loven, who issued five straight walks.
“There’s tons more pressure out here. You feel like you’ve got to impress people,” said Loven, who smacked an RBI triple in the South’s Friday night win. “It kind of makes me nervous.”
Bailey went on to drive in a run and draw another walk later in the series. Loven also got another extra-base hit when he connected for a double in the third contest.
During the South’s second-game comeback, Bailey’s base on balls was followed by a sacrifice fly from Machen to tie the game. Actually, it was more like a rocket shot — a hard-hit ball that Mora center fielder Ernest Maestas dove forward to grab.
Loving’s Gavino Gutierrez then put the South up to stay with an RBI single.
“I got robbed on that one, but we came back with a few more RBIs so it was all right,” said Machen, who had spent much of the previous two innings diving after wild pitches from his catcher’s position. “We were throwing a lot in the dirt and I can’t move in the sand. It was getting rough out there — I probably lost 15 pounds.”
Machen played football for Portales before switching to Dora at the midway point of his senior season. Mobley, the lone representative from Floyd, saw limited playing time Friday but sliced an RBI single inside the right field line in the second inning of Saturday’s first game.
“It’s a great experience. It’s the best baseball I’ve ever played,” Mobley said. “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, too. I thought that it was going to be real tough head-to-head competition, but we’ve been scoring a whole bunch.”