By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE — For his first all-star coaching experience, Dora’s Ty Thatcher definitely had a philosophy that differed radically from his opponent.
Using his bench liberally, Thatcher used 20 players for the South in Friday’s Class 1A-2A senior high school all-star game at Sandia Prep.
Meanwhile, the North utilized four substitutes in pulling out a 7-6 win in the first of three games in the annual New Mexico Coaches Association classic.
A doubleheader is scheduled between the squads, starting at 1 p.m. today.
Thatcher’s strategy that had its ups and downs.
With a runner at third and the South holding a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning, he used three straight pinch-hitters. The result was three consecutive strikeouts against North pitcher Connor Hanrahan of Sandia Prep.
“That was a little bit hard to swallow,” Thatcher admitted.
“That dugout was about a hundred and twenty degrees and they had to sit in there for an hour,” he said. “But once they got into the breeze, I think they finally got going. But we sacrificed that an inning to get those subs in, it seemed like.”
However, in the top of the seventh, Texico pinch-hitter Zach Morgan vindicated the coach by stroking a single down the third-base line to drive in a run and give the South a 6-4 advantage.
Morgan admitted later that it was difficult sitting on the bench for most of the game — something none of the participants at this event are used to doing.
“It was (my) first time on the bench in about two years, I guess,” Morgan said. “I just tried to stay focused. We probably have four first basemen.
“I’ll probably get to start a game tomorrow.”
Other players on the South roster included Texico’s Zane Anderson, who started at third, along with Brad Lee and Matt Benoit from Floyd, Grady’s Domingo Diaz, Dora’s Tyler Wilhoit and Elida’s Thomas West.
The South will need to sweep Saturday’s twin bill in order to gain a series win. That’s because the North made up a two-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh for the victory.
The rally began with a dropped fly ball to left. After a single scored one run, Mora’s Joshua Martinez reached when a third strike squirted by the catcher to the backstop.
Martinez scored the winning run on a groundout by Hope Christian’s Michael Chenowith. The South tried to convert the bouncer to short into a double play, but Chenowith beat the relay to first.
“We booted it around a little bit and it cost us the ballgame,” Thatcher said. “We had a couple of key plays that didn’t go our way, but the subs came in and did a good job.
“Today, I just wanted to get a look at all the kids and see what they could do. We were still in a position to win the ballgame. I think everybody needed to see the field a little bit today.”