Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
This wasn’t supposed to happen, not again.
Goddard baseball should have been playing in the semi-final game on Friday and the championship game on Saturday. Somebody forgot to tell Los Lunas that. Los Lunas came in looking to make their season by beating the No. 2 seed Rockets and ending their streak at five consecutive championship games.
Los Lunas would win the Thursday night contest, 6-5.
It was a tale of two games for Los Lunas and Goddard. The Tigers started powerful righthander Kade Benavidez. He was masterful for all seven innings as he kept Goddard off balance by jamming them inside and at times, overpowering them, and also changing speeds.
Rockets fans can blame the loss on three things: They were the last game of the night; secondly, it was very windy — very windy. All season long the thing that the Goddard Rockets could count on was their pitching, defense.
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Last, they made mental errors. It seemed like Goddard was playing tight, almost playing not to lose instead of having fun and relaxing.
In a surprise move by Goddard coach Gilbert Alvarado, he started Eli Fairbanks, thinking they would win this game, then start Ty Villareal in the semifinal game, with Drew Price in the championship game.
“The kids were all on board with it, too,” Alvarado said. “Our thought process was that Los Lunas got shut out in a three-game series against Los Alamos by a lefty. We were hoping for the same thing. It was something we thought about for a long, long time and the kids knew what the plan was going into the game.
“I told them the leash was short, and if we have to bring someone in, we will.”
Fairbanks didn’t have his best stuff in the one and two-thirds innings he pitched. The Rockets’ defense would betray him and Villareal on the night with four errors.
Fairbanks should have been out of the inning in the second with no runs, but an error loaded the bases to end his night.
Alvarado said, “The errors kicked up three runs. That makes a pitcher struggle when you get somebody out and they’re not out.”
Fairbanks deserved better than what he ended up with, an early shower. He didn’t make it out of the second inning as he was replaced by Villareal.
On the basepaths, Goddard would run themselves out of innings, like in the fifth when a runner was thrown out trying to get to third base.
Those errors and the hot bats of Los Lunas were too much for Goddard to overcome as they lost, 6-5, at Rio Rancho.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys,” Alvarado said, “to come back from 6-2 and to make it 6-5. With the tying run on base to give ourselves a chance, I’m still proud of my team.”
In the first inning, Fairbanks gave up a triple to Los Lunas’ Chris Lucero, and then a single to Joseph Klaus to score Lucero and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
The second was Goddard’s downfall as they gave up three runs and committed a majority of their four errors in that inning, falling behind, 4-0.
By the third inning, Goddard trailed, 5-0. In the bottom of the third was when Goddard’s bats came alive. Noah Nunez doubled off the left field wall, with Russell Ross coming in as a courtesy runner.
“When you give up four unearned runs off of four errors,” Alvarado said, “off the top of my head right now, I can think of four runs that, if we don’t kick ground balls, Eli (Fairbanks) probably gets us through that game.”
Next up was Villareal, who hit the ball to shortstop so hard that it deflected off the top of his glove.
Ross ran to third base, slid, and then came home to put Goddard on the scoreboard, 5-1. On that play, Los Lunas had no one covering second base. Villareal kept running and slid into second base safely.
Price stepped to the plate and singled to the shortstop deep in the hole. The shortstop got to the ball and gloved it, but couldn’t get the ball out of his glove to make a throw.
The biggest controversy of the game was in the fourth inning when Owen Alsup hit the ball to right field. The umpire said the right-fielder dropped the ball. Runners on first and third tagged up and the runner on third scored.
The umpire at second base said that indeed the right-fielder caught the ball and dropped it when he was taking it out of his glove.
The umpire sent Price, who was on first base and had tagged up to second base. Then the umpire sent him back to first base and finally called him out.
The runner on third base was OK, as Goddard scored one run to close the lead to 5-2. The importance of the call was Goddard had only one out at the time, and Price would have been at second base with a chance to score.
Coach Alvarado was very upset and confused, as were the Goddard fans.
Goddard almost won the game in the seventh inning when Trotter Boston got a base hit. Sean Henry came in as a courtesy runner for Boston. Nunez hit the ball to center field, but he dropped it, allowing Boston to end up at third base.
“Granted, it doesn’t help when you wait until the seventh inning until you start putting some good swings on the ball,” Alvarado said. “I’ll give some credit to Kade Benavidez — he threw his fastball over, and he threw a lot of off-speed pitches and kept some guys guessing on certain counts.”
Goddard scored three runs in the seventh inning after Los Lunas had to take out Benavidez because he was at the 125-pitch limit.
Price got a base hit to score Boston, to make it 6-3. Alsup hit a double down the right field line to score two runs to make it 6-5 with two outs.
Goddard stranded the tying run on base to end the game. Goddard had four errors and six men left on base for the game.
“We hate to have it end here,” Alvarado said. “I mean, one day it was going to happen and we wouldn’t make the state championship game. It sucks that it was on our watch. I told the boys those days in the summertime when you don’t feel like going to the gym, just remember how this feels and use that to crawl your butt out of bed. Honestly, we had a really good season.”
Goddard accomplished a lot this season, winning 21 games, district for the eighth consecutive time and the quarterfinals for the sixth straight time.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.