It’s an honor to represent Roswell in the World Series
Editor’s note: This story was written from the perspective or point-of-view of Manager Kyle Stokes and staff.
The Roswell Intermediate All-Stars has been on quite a journey up to this point, coaches Chad Holloway, Jeremy Kermode and manager, Kyle Stokes of the Roswell Intermediate take the readers of Chaves County on a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to coach and win five games to be the second Roswell team to make it to the World Series.
The coaches took a team of combined All-Stars from Lions Hondo and Noon Optimist in the 13-year-old division in the 50-70 Intermediate All-Star league. The team started off in district play at the end of June. They played three games and outscored our opponents, 84-5, which advanced them to the New Mexico State Tournament.
The state tournament was played in Albuquerque at the beginning of July. Roswell’s team rolled through the tournament, outperforming the competition, 54-6. Winning so easily at state qualified us for a spot in the Southwestern Regional Tournament in Houston, Texas.
We knew by playing in the regionals, that there were better teams and we had to step up our game at the plate, in the field, and on the mound. We opened up Oklahoma and played very well right out of the gate, winning 19-2.
We proceeded to play a West Texas team that threw their ace, Mr. Banda. Banda threw the max 96 pitches the next day and lost a tight game that came down to the bottom of the seventh inning. West Texas hit a walk-off base hit to hand us our first loss in an 8-7 game.
“I told them there is no place but up from here,” Manager Stokes said. “Playing every day helped us, it kept us in a routine.”
Being in the losers’ bracket forced us to play every day, in order for us to continue to play baseball, we had to win out. By winning every game we played, that got us to the championship game.
On Sunday, we found our mojo and put up 20 runs against Colorado, winning 20-6. Monday saw us face an earlier opponent in Oklahoma. We felt pretty confident because they were our first win in the tournament. We took care of business and eliminated them, 21-7.
Tuesday, things got more interesting as we had to face the only team we had lost to: Texas West. They had bet us in extra innings. It was another hard-fought game, but this time we were on the right side of a 7-5 victory, sending us to the championship game. It got interesting when they got to face Texas West who had previously beat them.
“I told them we had to come out swinging,” Stokes said. “Let’s play the baseball that we know how to and let’s stay aggressive. I felt their team was strong, 2-5, but after that, they fell off and we managed them.”
Wednesday, we played the host team from Houston — Texas East. They had not lost a game in the tournament to this point, but we were feeling pretty confident in our team and our guys. This game is what we came here for, to play in the championship game.
We fell behind by three runs in the first inning but continued to fight, as our pitchers shut them down for the next six innings, hanging zeros. Our bats came alive in the sixth when we got a runner on and then it was followed by one of our big boppers, Isaac Loya, who hit a hanging curveball for a two-run shot, which cut Texas East’s lead to one run.
The move of the game was when coach Stokes pulled Loya after he allowed three runs in the first inning. Loya knew he was doing bad and that they had a chance with six innings left. Offense and defense are the same, and Loya feels like whether he is having a good game or a bad game, he still has to do a job.
“I told him he wasn’t on today,” Stokes said. “We’ll live to fight another day. Let’s put you at shortstop where you can play good defense.”
Loya made a defensive gem in the bottom of the seventh inning by backhanding a ball and throwing out the runner out at first. Also, in the same inning, first baseman Michael Mathison, made another gem to get the final out of the game by backhanding a ball, to take away a hit.
In the same inning we loaded the bases and my son, Ross Stokes, turned out the lights by hitting a grand slam to give us a 6-3 lead, which we never looked back from.
“Texas East’s posture was down after the home run,” Stokes said, “that’s when I pretty much knew we had it.”
In the seventh inning, we added insurance runs by scoring four more to give us a 10-3 win as the kids celebrated being the first Roswell team to advance to the World Series since the 1956 Lions Hondo team.
“Our team went 5-1 during the week in Houston,” manager Kyle Stokes said. “Our kids came up big and we received some outstanding defensive plays and great pitching. Our bats were hot as we hit 19 homers in six games — those were the keys to our wins. All 12 players have contributed to the team this whole tournament.”
The team is relaxed and ready to go to California and take care of business. Stokes feels like they have a business to do out there and it is no vacation. Stokes knows that the kids realize they have given up their whole summer because they have school when they get back.
“All of the hard work has been worth it,” Loya said. “It has been worth it to me to give up my summer.”
This is the second Roswell team to make it to the World Series, including the 1956 team. It becomes really simple for them as they prepare to leave Houston at 4:30 a.m. today, they have to win four games — two against American teams and two against International teams to win it all.
“This is phenomenal,” Stokes said. “This is really a once in a lifetime journey with this group of young men. I’ve preached that baseball is 90% mental and 10% physical. As a dad, to be able to do this with one of your sons, it’s an honor. It is an honor to these parents to let us coach their sons. The Roswell community’s support has been very good. It would have been very tough to do this without the support from some generous parents, businesses. Keep cheering and streaming games and testing us, we appreciate all of the support.”
The team will travel to Livermore, California, and be known as the Southwestern Region and drew a bye. The southwestern team will play at 3 p.m. on Monday. There will be six teams representing the United States and six international teams. We will face the winner of the East and Southeast. The games are expected to be shown on ESPN or streamed by them.
On Saturday, read about one mother’s dedication to her son’s dream and the team that she quits her job.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.