Hope Christian’s first-year coach, Josh Usher, might have tried to get a little competitive advantage by having his team remain a mystery. According to the New Mexico Activities Association, all teams are supposed to update their statistics on Max Preps, especially for a pitcher.
The most up-to-date stats that have been put in by the Huskies are eight innings pitched by Kole Simmons; and seven games played by Connor Usher, the coach’s son, as a hitter. There’s a rule according to other area teams about teams keeping player stats current.
Could this lead teams to question how many innings a pitcher has pitched? The reason most teams don’t divulge information or stats about their team is it could serve as a scouting report for other teams.
The element of surprise is over with. It took three innings before Goddard’s speed and the crispness of power pitcher Drew Price to figure Hope Christian out. The Huskies come into the playoffs as the No. 15 seed with a 12-13 record.
With the coolness of a drizzled, light rainy day, the weather proved to be good for Price. Price wore no long-sleeve shirt and just wanted the ball. Hope Christian hitters continually stepped out of the batter box on Price trying to break his rhythm and slow the game down. No worries, because Goddard would mercy rule Hope Christian, 10-0.
“Drew (Price) was throwing his secondary pitches over really well,” Goddard coach Gilbert Alvarado said. “Hope (Christian) had a plan to sit on fastballs early and often and Drew started throwing his curveball, changeup and split-fingers. When they were making contact, it was on the ground, which is what we wanted.”
Price adjusted and was never in any kind of trouble. Price threw heat as fans could hear the “pop, pop, pop” from Rockets’ catcher Noah Nunez’s glove. Price shut down the Huskies to no runs, three hits, three walks on 99 pitches with 13 strikeouts.
“I didn’t feel like I was on,” Price said. “I was just trusting the process, and I was trying to get my stuff over the plate. My team played great and had each other’s backs and was picking each other up and hitting well. We were loud in the dugout and we played good defense and stuff was going our way.”
Goddard opened the scoring when Nunez walked and was replaced by courtesy runner Russell Ross. He stole second base, and the Huskies’ catcher threw the ball into centerfield as Ross strolled into third base.
Rockets’ Ty Villareal bunted on a squeeze play, and the Huskies’ pitcher picked up the ball and tried to touch Ross on the back of his shirt. The umpire called him safe. Hope Christian challenged the call but the safe call was upheld, to give Goddard a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning, Goddard scored six runs in the sixth inning. Hot-hitting Nunez hit a ball that hit off the base of the left-field wall for a stand up double to lead off the inning. Ross came in to run for Nunez again. Villareal hit a single up the middle to drive in Ross to give them a 2-0 lead.
“I saw the fastball,” Nunez said. “I was seeing the fastball fat all day. With the single I hit, it was another fastball over the middle.”
Price walked as Jonah Chavez came into courtesy run. Owen Alsup singled past the shortstop as Villareal ended up on second base. Mason Sonive hit a bloop single over in short right field to load the bases. Fairbanks hit a bases-loaded triple to score three runs as Goddard would take a 5-0.
Goddard would score five more runs to mercy rule them and close them out in the sixth inning.
“I had two big hacks in the beginning,” Fairbanks said. “I had to spread my stance out, trying to get something going for the team and he (pitcher) left a curveball over the middle of the plate. I just trusted my hands. They were throwing a lot of off-speed pitches down in the count — I kept fouling pitches off until I got what I wanted.”
Alvarado compared his team’s big third inning to a dam bursting. His hitters one to nine had some good at-bats. With Fairbanks’ triple, it really popped things open for his team and got them going. Alvarado stated you get water built up from the dam and it’s about to break and something doesn’t happen and you need that one more hit to let the dam break loose and it takes the pressure off of everyone else to score three runs.
“Fairbanks has had a good sophomore year,” Alvarado said. “He’s had a good junior year this year and he’s pitching a lot more for us this year. He’s played a solid first base for us. He’s hitting .350 in the sixth spot. What more could you want from the bottom third of the lineup?”
Hope Christian will throw their best pitcher today, to try and stay in the series.
Goddard hosts Hope Christian at 11 a.m. today at the Launch Pad.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.