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Goddard uses big fourth to beat rival

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Roswell fans, left, and Goddard fans, right, take in the action from Tuesday’s Roswell-Goddard game at the Launch Pad. (Scott Stevenson Photo)

For Goddard baseball coach, Gilbert Alvarado, life has a new meaning every day he goes to apply his vocation — there’s a reminder to enjoy the game of baseball today. That tomorrow has no promises and that no matter what happens on the baseball field, it is just a game. In this game, Goddard took advantage of an error-filled fourth inning to beat rival Roswell, 5-1, at the Launch Pad Tuesday.

Goddard’s Drew Price prepares to throw a pitch during Tuesday’s game against Roswell at the Launch Pad. (Scott Stevenson Photo)

Yes, Goddard baseball has the expectation of championship or bust, and on the other end of the spectrum, Goddard’s rival is suddenly on the come. Under former NMMI product and first-year coach Tyrell Curtis, the Coyotes are two wins away from having their most successful baseball season in at least 10 years. If Roswell continues to play this well, Curtis will be up for coach of the year in District 4-5A.

“It was a good game for four innings,” Curtis said. “We had one bad inning and that changed the whole dynamic of the game. Drew Graham pitched probably one of the best-pitched games he’s pitched all year. As a senior and the last time he will face Goddard, he pitched well. I’m happy we’re still 11-5. We want to get to 13 wins and be one of the better teams in the district.”

For four innings, both teams were locked into a pitching duel between Goddard fireballer Drew Price and Roswell’s Drew Graham.

In the first inning with two outs, Roswell’s Rhett Stokes hits a squibber back in front of the grass in front of home plate and about four steps off the mound. Stokes uses his speed to beat out the throw to first base for a hit as Goddard was indecisive in play.

The next batter up, Taymon Burrola, hit a gap shot to right-center field which allowed Stokes to go to third base. Roswell had runners on first and third base with two outs. Roswell’s Hunter Myers-Palma hit the ball deep in the hole and the throw was late, allowing Stokes to score and Burrola to be safe at second. Price would get out of the inning, trailing 1-0.

“In the first inning, it wasn’t me,” Price said. “I slowly came back into myself, you could say that during the fourth inning and beyond, that I started to be more like myself. I caught like a second wind and I was ready to go.”

In the bottom of the second inning, Goddard’s Mason Sonive was hit by a pitch and would steal second base with one out. Sean Henry would single to right field, moving Sonive to third. Tanner Conrad would hit the ball to second base for a fielder’s choice allowing Sonive to tie the game at 1-1.

It was a scoreless affair until the bottom of the fifth inning when all of a sudden, the Coyotes found errors and scuffed balls that they were getting to earlier in the game, which allowed the opportunistic Rockets to break the game open as they would score four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, all but ending their chances to win.

Price was sharp as he set Roswell down in order, allowing three hits while striking out seven and didn’t allow an earned run. On the day Price was throwing his split-finger fastball, his curveball and his fastball — he didn’t throw his changeup much on the day. Not only was Price dominant on the hill, he was 3-for-3 at the plate. Price moved to 6-1 on the season.

“I think the team is playing as a family,” Price said. “I think everybody is doing good. We have a few guys that are the leaders on the team and we’re willing to carry them (team) to wherever they want to go. We are young this year but we are scrappy and we go out there and play.”

Graham was equally as dazzling until the errors in the fifth allowed Goddard to pull away. Graham allowed two earned runs, struck out four in six innings pitched.

“I was trying to throw strikes,” Graham said. “Our defense played good defense throughout the game. That one bad inning (fifth) hurt us. I thought that we had the offense to come back and win the game. This team has come together and we have bonded and we’re playing as a team this year.”

Goddard (12-5) has played a lot of new players due to graduation and it has taken time for the players to get comfortable. Alvarado has moved speedster Noah Nunez from the outfield to catcher. According to Alvarado, Nunez is doing a good job in replacing steady catcher Logan Mathison, who graduated last year. Owen Alsup and Colton Sons have been doing well as an everyday player for the Rockets.

Alvarado feels good about his pitching staff in a three-game matchup going into district play — he will look to Price, Ty Villareal and Eli Fairbanks as starters with Tanner Conrad coming in for long relief if necessary. Alsup and Sons will be used as short relievers normally.

“We haven’t been perfect,” Alvarado said. “We’ve been struggling with some errors here and there. We try to get the kids in the right mindset to get good at-bats. The thing for us is that we’re still a week away from the big part of our season and that’s district play. We play against teams that expose what we don’t do well. We put our team through a tough schedule to start to raise our play some. We enjoy playing Roswell because they always get up for that game.”

Goddard booster club along with Alvarado honored one of their own when they hung a banner honoring former Goddard baseball player, Jason Roach, with his name and No. 12. The banner hanging in left field has more meaning to Alvarado than to some of his other teammates in the class of 2001.

Roach was a senior teammate of Alvarado in 2001, Goddard had to defeat Roswell in a doubleheader to make it into district playoffs. Roach pitched the first game and won, but Roswell won the second game, ending his career. Roach made the New Mexico All-Star team his senior year and played in the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington.

Roach went on to have an outstanding career with the Roswell Fire Department. Roach rose to the ranks of lieutenant and was a supporter of Goddard baseball. When Alvarado looks at the left field, there is a different meaning to his coaching. Not only is Alvarado about winning, but he’s about instilling the love and enjoyment of the game to his players — he’s about the gift of life. Roach developed Multiple Sclerosis and lost his courageous battle on Feb. 9, 2018.

“He was a great teammate,” Alvarado said. “I don’t ever remember Jason (Roach) saying anything bad or anything negative about anybody. He was always smiling and I don’t remember him losing when he pitched on the mound. I always felt like we had a chance when he was on the mound. He was a great teammate and a great baseball player and it’s just unfortunate that his life was taken too soon.”