If Goddard is going to make their sixth consecutive championship game, they are going to need their dynamic duo of Drew Price and Ty Villareal to be on point. There is no room for error. One loss and the ride ends.
Villareal has bounced back from a season that limited his effectiveness until late in the season last year. Boy, is he making up for it this season. He was clocked on the gun by Hope Christian at 87 mph and was just getting loose as he dismantled the Huskies in nasty fashion on 66, pitches Goddard won 12-0, at The Launch Pad Saturday.
“We came out swinging better as a group,” Alvarado said. “We found ways to get some runs across. We put some pressure on Hope Christian. Our big boys came through, as well. We put Jonah Chavez in the nine-hole and he got two hits today.”
Not only is Villareal playing Robin to Price’s Batman, with eight teams entering the quarterfinals next Thursday, Goddard needs both pitchers getting it done at the plate. Villareal threw 10 pitches in the first inning.
“The fastball was working today,” Villareal said. “Fastball has always been my pitch. Today I tried to mix it up and throw strikes and trust my defense. We can’t lose again this season, it’s fun and exciting.”
Goddard’s hottest hitter is Eli Fairbanks. Fairbanks singled in a run up the middle. On Friday, he hit a base hit to score two runs as the Rockets have taken off. Goddard opened the game scoring when Price hit it to the shortstop and the shortstop rushed the throw and was called safe. The next batter was Owen Alsup, who hit a pop up to the second baseman in shallow right field.
“When I get two strikes on me,” Fairbanks said, “I just whistle and it clears my mind and relaxes me.”
Hope Christian’s second baseman called for the ball, but the right fielder came charging in and when the second baseman had the ball in his glove, he was bumped by the right fielder and knocked the ball loose as it rolled toward their dugout allowing Price to score from second base to give Goddard a 1-0 lead.
Coach Gilbert Alvarado has switched up his lineup and started senior Jonah Chavez —who has been killing the ball in practice — which has impressed Alvarado enough to give him playing time. Chavez had two singles in the game and scored two runs, as well.
In the second inning, Fairbanks walked, Trotter Boston was hit by a pitch, Chavez walked to load. Noah Nunez is also swinging a torrid bat, hit a ground ball to shortstop, and the Goddard base runner ran in front of the shortstop as he lost concentration and booted the ball allowing Goddard to score two runs to lead, 4-0. By the time the inning was over with, the Rockets led, 7-0. At the end of the third inning, Goddard was up 10-0, and lead 12-0 by the end of the fourth inning. Goddard mercy-ruled the Huskies on consecutive days.
Now the real work begins, Goddard will play Los Lunas on Thursday. Los Lunas defeated Los Alamos, 2-0 on Saturday. The Tigers’ record is 15-8 and 3-5 in district play. They will come into the game as the No. 10 seed.
In this round of the playoffs, it’s one and done. Coach Alvarado must decide who to pitch in the first game on Thursday, between Price, Villareal and Fairbanks. Goddard has a good problem, if they continue to win, they can only pitch their pitchers once next week, depending on how many pitches they throw. The Rockets, if they win all three games, will play Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We know that Los Lunas has some really good arms,” Alvarado said. “I know that Los Lunas has Kade Benavidez, who is a really good pitcher. Our thoughts are, who do we want to match him up with in the quarterfinals? Now you’re going to play the game: Do I throw my best pitcher in the quarterfinals, and lose in the semis? Do I roll the dice in the quarters and try to get to the state championship? You’ve got to think, did I come here to win one game or did I come here to win three?”
Alvarado knows that if he’s wrong, there will be people to second-guess him, no matter what he decides to do. He feels like the perfect scenario is Price throws the championship game. Alvarado has been to the state championship game as a coach three times — twice with Ruidoso and last year with the Rockets.
Goddard will play Los Lunas at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rio Rancho.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.