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Meeting between old friends

Shawn Naranjo Photo Tie goes to the runner as Rocket Eli Fairbanks and Coyote Xavier Lomeli reach the bag at the same time.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Everything has changed and yet it’s the same. Goddard baseball hosts Roswell at the Launch Pad for the right to continue playing for the Blue Trophy. What has changed is that Goddard has a new baseball coach in Gilbert Alvarado. Alvarado has continued to dominate the competition with a 20-4 record overall and a 10-2 district record. It was last season when Roswell needed a 1-0 upset of Artesia to make it into the playoffs. While making it into the playoffs the senior-laden Coyotes nearly upset the Rockets in the first game of the playoffs before losing, 2-1. The game was tied, until the sixth inning. Roswell coach Carlos Marrujo has once again defied the odds of making the playoffs with eighth-graders, ninth-graders, and sophomores. The Coyotes have been able to win in spite of being error-plagued in the field. They will look to senior Carlitos Montoya in the first game to keep the Rockets off balance, he has been the ace of the staff. Primarily pitching on junior varsity last season, Montoya has worked on his craft and become the leader of the team. With Montoya on the hill, he gives the Coyotes a chance in every game, even when he hasn’t had his best stuff. Most teams have not beaten him by pounding him into submission this season, it has been an error here and an error there which has turned a one-two-three inning into a deficit most games. In the second game look for a healthy Drew Graham to upset the No.1 ranked team in 5A. Graham pitched flawless baseball going the full seven to upset Artesia, 2-0 on Apr. 27, at Joe Bauman Stadium. Graham had suffered an injury that affected his ability to land on his leg when he followed through. If relief is necessary, look for Marrujo to bring in AJ Palomino and Xavier Lomeli to bring the heat.

Shawn Naranjo Photo
After Goddard’s Drew Price makes it safely to second base after a double, he and Roswell second baseman Carlitos Montoya, show that even in a rivalry game they’re still friends.

On the offense, one of the hottest bats has been Montoya, who seems to keep an inning alive when he is up, power hitter Raul Guzman has added some pop to the Coyote lineup with his bat. The speed guys at the top of the lineup are Xavier Gonzales who went from first to second on a bloop hit against Artesia. He left the batter’s box with his head down and didn’t stop until he slid headfirst into second base barely beating the throw. That play changed the momentum of the game and helped the Coyotes take the lead. The other difference maker is Rhett Stokes if he hits it on the ground to shortstop, and the shortstop takes his time throwing it over to first base, Stokes is capable of beating it out. Lomeli is able to hit the ball wherever it is pitched and seems to be one of the best bad-ball hitters the Coyotes have. In the middle of their lineup both the Burrola brothers: Tarren and Taymon have come on as of late with key hits when needed. Taymon seems to hit the ball to left-centerfield often, he is a line drive hitter, and Tarren is able to battle until he draws a walk or gets a pitch he can handle.

In order for Roswell to have a chance against the No.1 team in the state, they will have to field the ball cleanly and make the simple play without error. They must play situational baseball and when they are hitting they have to work the counts. Most importantly they have to believe they can win, and remember the game they played against Goddard earlier in the year when they were only trailing 6-2 at the end of the fifth inning, before errors allowed Goddard to blow the game open.

In his three-years as coach Marrujo has had Roswell in the playoffs every year he has been there. Before he was hired Roswell went through three different coaches in three years. This team has taken on his personality, a former standout at NMMI. Marrujo was a second-stringer at NMMI when the player in front of him got sick and didn’t play that game, Marrujo got the start that day and went 4-4 and was never on the bench again at NMMI.

With the opportunity to start and play he ended up being recruited by Eastern New Mexico University graduate assistant baseball coach named Gilbert Alvarado. Alvarado coached the outfielders and Marrujo ended up being a backup second baseman at ENMU on scholarship.

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“I was always fighting for playing time and a spot on the roster,” Marrujo said. “ I try to convey to my team that any given day you go out and perform you might get to play. I learned a lot from coach Alvarado. He worked a lot on hitting with me. I could tell he was going to be a good coach because of his passion while I was in school. He’s a good dude, he’s always treated me well. He’s taught me his love and passion for the game has helped me in my coaching. He can coach, he took Ruidoso to the championship game twice.”

Marrujo preaches to his team to stay ready because they never know when their opportunity to play will come. Marrujo wasn’t a star athlete he was a battler and was always the 24-25 man on the team fighting for playing time. This team reminds him of himself and his career.

While at ENMU they went to the regional playoffs together.

“ I thought he was a solid player,” Alvarado said. “He had the right mentality to do well at ENMU. I thought he would be a good coach because his fundamentals were solid, he was always learning and was never pretentious. I like the way he coaches, his boys play the game the right way. I honestly hope he wins every game he coaches, except for the ones against us.”

Goddard is the reigning 5A champion, and very few times have they been beaten this season. More often than not they have beaten themselves with errors and lack of concentration. Often the game became to easy for them and they lost their focus. In a game at the Launch Pad on Apr. 24, they crushed Artesia, 12-0 and in less than an hour later lose to the same team, 5-3. Sometimes focus has been a problem, it seems like this has been the time of year they have been waiting for. The Rockets have at least five starting arms they can throw at teams with ace Drew Price. Price brings it up to the plate in a hurry, his fastball has been clocked in the high 80s, and his split-finger has buckled hitters knees. He also has two homers on the season as a hitter. Tyler Hardwick might have the filthiest stuff on the staff, to go along with an equally impressive record, 7-1and a 1.60 ERA. Matt Shanor has won five games and has a 1.95 ERA. the best thing about him is he’s a heady player. He keeps his cool and makes the routine play, whether things are going well for him on the mound or at the plate. They also have Cameron Stevenson they can bring in in relief, and then they have Ty Villarreal back from injury. Villareal has a fastball and a curveball that drops off the table. If they need a lefty to throw some innings they have Eli Fairbanks. This team is loaded on the hill and at the plate. The best thing that can be said about this team when they are batting is they are a professional hitting team. They go up there with a plan and work the pitcher, they see a lot of pitches, in the later innings, they’re able to get hits that would normally be flyouts or groundouts. Noah Nunez leads the team in stolen bases with 14 and Rusty Ross has eight. Stevenson leads the team with five homers this season. The team has a .379 batting average on the season.

All season long coach Alvarado has been preaching trust the process and winning the inning. Alvarado has been in the championship game twice as a coach at Ruidoso, so don’t expect the bright lights of playoff baseball to make him feel pressure. He has been the perfect coach to replace coach Alan Edmonson. Edmonson stressed to his team to control the things they can, and not to worry about the things they cannot. Alvarado has the same message, only it’s, win the inning. Alvarado has challenged his team mentally to stay in the game and to focus on each pitch, each at-bat, in the field and on the mound.

Today old friends will forget they’re friends until after this series.

Goddard plays at 4 p.m. against Roswell at the Launch Pad today.


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