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Beau knows comeback, Noon Optimist is eliminated

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Noon Optimist Little League 11-12-year-old All-Star team. Front row, from left: Peyton Peña, Zeke Burrola, Zackary McCracken and Gary Roybal III. Middle row, from left: Braxton Wooton, Joaquin Bolaños, Rayford Fulkerson, Elias Lujan and Lucien Betencur. Back row, from left: Caleb Moore, Asa Shaw and Beau Roach. Head Coach Ernie Lujan, Assistant coaches Ruben Bolaños and Braxton Fulkerson. (J.T. Keith Photo)

Sports Editor’s note: Lions Hondo will be covered in a later edition due to game times and press deadlines.

It was hot, muggy, and the sun didn’t help the Noon Optimist Little League All-Stars. It seemed with the sun out, they were prone to errors, and little to no offense in a game that looked like they were going to mercy-rule by arch-rival Artesia in an elimination game.

Artesia jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Noon Optimist came right back in the bottom of the first inning when Elias Lujan singled up the middle — he reached second base on a passed ball. With two out, power hitter Beau Roach came to bat and laced a double to score Lujan and tie the game at 1-1.

Noon Optimist would leave Roach stranded as they ended the inning.

“I’m kind of sad we lost,” Roach said. “It was really fun and there are a lot of good teammates on this team.”

In the top of the third fielding errors would chase Noon Optimist starting pitcher as they would give up six runs in the inning as Artesia would end up another seven runs in the sixth inning to win the game in a slugfest, 15-11, at Lions Hondo Park on Tuesday.

“I told our team we were proud of them,” coach Ernie Lujan said. “They scored nine runs in the sixth inning, if Artesia hadn’t scored six runs in the final inning, we could have pulled that one out. I’m proud to see these kids grow since pee wee and the minors and now to the majors and the accomplishments they have had. I hate that we are ending it on a loss.”

Coach Lujan was out of options as he used pitcher after pitcher and his team looked tired. The sun was grueling and sweltering as run after run was scored for Artesia. As Lions Hondo came in for their final at-bat, coach Lujan told his team to take it one bat at a time and to just get hits.

As the team huddled and put their hands together to break, their chant was one, two, three, eat. When the sun went in and the weather cooled, Noon Optimist foreshadowed what was to come in their last plate appearance of the All-Star season.

With that, Roach, the team’s hottest hitter would walk up to the plate and look foolish on a pitch, but with two strikes on him, Roach doubled to left field to get the Noon Optimist rally started. Another player walked to load the bases. Asa Shaw and Lucien Betencur were walked scoring Roach, making the score 15-3.

Artesia changed pitchers sending up Bolanos, who hit it to their first baseman and he did a Bill Buckner as he misplayed the ball clearing the bases, bringing Noon Optimist back, 15-6. A wild pitch later and Bolanos scored to make it 15-7 as the players in the dugout started to scream and the fans started hollering in support of Noon Optimist.

Gary Roybal III hit a smash to shortstop as the ball whizzed by to put him on first. Rayford Fulkerson was walked and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Zackary McCracken hit a single to left field to drive in a run as Noon Optimist came back 15-9 with no out.

Roach lit up Artesia to drive in his four RBIs on the day as well as go 3-for-3 as Noon Optimist batted around in the sixth inning, making the score 15-11 with one out. The runs would end there as Noon Optimist would line out to shortstop and the runner would be doubled off base to end the game.

“In the sixth inning,” Roach said, “I was looking for something to hit. I think they were trying to throw me a curveball, but it was outside. Mainly, they threw me fastballs, I never got a changeup once. I was just trying to get something going and get the guys to third and first base to score.”

Noon Optimist All-Star season ended Tuesday with a 15-11 loss to Artesia.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.