Opportunity knocks for 1A schools

Texico’s Logan Brown slides in safely against Grady earlier in the season. He and the Wolverines face Dora at 10 a.m. today in the quarterfinals of the state tournament at St. Pius High School in Albuquerque.

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

Several teams are taking advantage of the new setup for the state baseball tournament.

Instead of a combination Class 1A-2A state tournament, each classification will have its own eight-team field.

Under the new format, Gallup Christian and Texico will make their first trip to the state tournament. Meanwhile, Elida hasn’t been to state since 1975.

Bigger schools have dominated the 1A-2A tournament in recent years, with Loving and Lordsburg having fought in the championship the past two years. But now, those teams are in the 2A bracket.

McCurdy coach Thomas McReynolds coach pegs Texico as the favorite going in, noted their physical size and experience.

“If everything goes the way I’ve been reading, Texico should be favored,” he said. “I think they’re a little above everybody else and everyone else is pretty equal.”

McReynolds wouldn’t be surprised to see a McCurdy-Texico championship.

McCurdy has by far the most state experience. The Bobcats have been to state seven straight years. No other 1A team made it to state last year.

Texico lost 31-1 in regional play to Santa Fe Indian School last year, but McReynolds saw the game and said it was a bit of a fluke. Texico coach Rich Luscombe agreed.

“I think we were just so nervous and I’m not sure what the reasoning behind that was,” he said. “They (SFIS) weren’t that much better team than we were, we just didn’t start out very well and it went downhill from there.”

Texico (15-2) faces familiar foe Dora (8-11) in the opening round at 10 a.m. today at St. Pius High School in Albuquerque.

Texico swept Dora in two meetings this season —10-0 and 9-5 — but Luscombe said his Wolverines were facing a novice pitcher in the first game and the second game was scoreless going into the fourth inning, with errors turning the tide.

Luscombe said playing solid defense is crucial in order for his team to advance.

“If we’re consistent, we’ll have a good chance to beat them, but if we make errors, we’re in trouble,” Luscombe said.

The Wolverines are led by the senior quartet of Braden Vaughan, Joel Maldonado, Josh Pena and Logan Brown, who each can play multiple positions. Vaughan, Maldonado and sophomore Theo Marez give Texico a three-man rotation.

Dora coach Ty Thatcher has 1-2 pitching combo in sophomore right-hander Philip Vandom and junior left-hander Brent Hays.

Hays pitched in the semifinals in 2003, when the Coyotes lost 8-7 to eventual champion Loving.

“He threw well enough to win that game,” Thatcher said.
Thatcher said his team’s question mark is hitting, where they’ve had to scratch, claw and take advantage of other team’s mistakes to score.

McReynolds said pitching is crucial in the three-day, single-elimination tournament, where hurlers can only throw 12 innings in a 72-hour span.

“You’ve got to have at least two good pitchers and one good reliever,” he said.

Elida (6-11) qualified for state by topping Mesilla Valley 11-10 Tuesday in the Regional A championship game in Portales. They’ll play Gallup Catholic (6-5) at 11 a.m. Monday at Cibola High School.

“We’re on cloud nine,” said Elida coach Jimmy Dale Ward, who’s coached the Tigers for six years. “Anytime you can get up there, it’s a great experience.”

Elida is extremely young, with only two upperclassmen. Ward said his team has struggled in the field. They committed six errors against Mesilla Valley.

The Tigers’ top pitcher is freshman Wesley Gilmore, who pitched a complete game Tuesday.

Led by sophomore pitcher and shortstop Derrick Toledo, Gallup Christian coach David Schmaltz said his team is young, too.

“I think the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to the one who’s going to advance,” Schmaltz said.