Fri May 6th, 2022
Special to the Drum
Tags: Blake Walton, David Romero, Devante Montoya, Dylan McCaw, Elliot Hendren, Eppie Quintana, Greg Guzzo, Ignacio Bobcats, Ignacio High School Baseball, Jacob Gallegos, Joey Just, Kaleb Valdez, Marcus Maez, Phillip Quintana, Rylee Montoya
Ignacio loses, wins at No. 7 Trinidad
It wasn’t that Devante Montoya wanted to be the focus of a game-altering ruling.
Or, as fate had it in for him Saturday afternoon, April 30, two.
But during the second half of Ignacio’s much-anticipated road doubleheader at Trinidad – at the time ranked No. 7 in the CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll – the sophomore centerfielder had nowhere to hide inside spacious Central Park as, much to the Miners’ horror, both verdicts went the visitors’ way.
The two-man umpiring crew first pondered, in the top of the second inning, whether or not Montoya could advance to first on a dropped third strike with first already occupied by Marcus Maez, who’d singled to left off THS starter Joey Just to advance Elliot Hendren to third. Rather than Montoya, as most expected, being denied – which would have ended the Bobcats’ at-bat – he was, based on having beaten catcher Blake Walton’s throw, ruled safe.
Keeping his head while the umpires were all but demanded to roll, IHS’ Jacob Gallegos promptly ripped a pitch to center which THS’ Isaiah Bowman misplayed, allowing all three runners to race home and increase the guests’ lead to a sudden 4-1.
Regrouping most effectively, Trinidad countered with two runs – products of solid ‘small ball’ including two perfect sacrifice bunts (Walton, Dylan Hamman) sandwiching an RBI-single (by David Romero), and a straight steal of home plate (by Romero) off Ignacio starter Phillip Quintana – in the bottom of the inning.
With the margin cut down to 4-3, all appeared to be forgotten … if not forgiven.
Proving not to be the case, the officials again came under fire in the top of the third. Bobcats Dylan McCaw, Hendren and Maez were all aboard – via, respectively, an unexpected intentional walk, a short single to right, and an infield single to third – and Montoya bounced a Just delivery to star shortstop Eli Crosson.
Crosson’s throw to first baseman Romero wasn’t clean, but Romero appeared to scoop the ball and retire Montoya for the second out. Montoya, however, was again deemed safe and, after Gallegos popped up to THS second baseman Rylee Montoya for the ‘true’ second out, Eppie Quintana singled to center, plating Hendren (no matter the ruling on Montoya’s infield hit, McCaw would have, and indeed did score on that particular play) to make the score 8-3, Ignacio.
When the regulation seven innings were finally completed and the scoreboard showing Ignacio 9, Trinidad 5 … well, it was hard to argue against the four runs in question ultimately impacting, one way or another, the outcome.
But no matter how the Miners and their supporters felt, THS finally caught something of an exploitable break when Maez had to leave the game, shaken up on a failed steal of home when the much bigger Walton more or less sat on his head while dropping down to block the plate and make a tag ending the top of the third.
His roster depleted by absences, IHS head coach Duke Baker had no choice to insert lone reserve – and erstwhile team manager – Cruz Martinez, sending him out to right field while moving Hendren across to left, McCaw from left to center, and Montoya from center to second base.
“I told them to go out there and not be intimidated, just play their game,” said Baker.
But with a virtual bullseye at which to aim, plus Crosson – incredibly still in the fight after taking then-catcher Phillip Quintana’s one-hop throw off the left side of his face on a steal of second late in Game 1, with resulting bleeding resuming early in Game 2 – on the hill after spelling Just right before Maez was retired, the Miners’ moment had seemingly arrived.
Replicating fellow senior Tyler Velasquez’s Game 1 work (Velasquez earned a complete-game win, dealing seven innings and striking out 14 ’Cats, while allowing but one earned run, two hits and issuing one walk, plus one hit-by-pitch), Crosson fired 4-1/3 innings of hitless relief, walked just Phillip Quintana – who’d score via a wild pitch to McCaw – and K’d nine.
But despite being shut down offensively, IHS – even with lacrosse-oriented Martinez inserted – played solid defense.
Phillip Quintana (W; 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, HB, 5 K) managed to retire THS in order in the fourth inning, then got out of a fifth-inning bases-juiced jam by starting a 1-2-3 double play off Just’s stick. Trinidad had managed to touch Quintana for a run prior to the DP, and then got an RBI-groundout by Walton early in the sixth, but after Quintana was pulled due to pitch count after walking leadoff Miner Brett Kendall, the ’Cats killed off another brewing rally by catching Kendall swiping second.
Crosson confidently struck out the side in Ignacio’s seventh, but after fielding errors allowed Rylee Montoya and Just to reach base – and soon advance to third and second base, respectively – in the home half, Bobcat reliever Gallegos (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K), called in from shortstop, froze 6-hole batter Jace Rogers with a victory-clinching third strike.
“You know, we didn’t have our hits … but it happens,” Baker said. “But our defense was on point; we were everywhere.”
“That’s the number-seven team in the state, and we didn’t let down,” he continued, adding emphasis. “And Trinidad has a great team; they’re well-coached, and they’ve got some big kids!”
And fortunately for THS, neighboring Hoehne doesn’t offer baseball; three of the proverbially-biggest Miners – college-prospect Crosson (1-3, INT-BB), Montoya (2-4, 2 RBI) and Rogers (1-4, 2 R) – were Farmers during the winter basketball season. Including his sac-bunt, Hamman went 2-2 with a run in Game 2, and Kendall went 1-1 with two walks, one hit-by-pitch, and a run, but losing pitcher Just (2.2 IP, 8 R, 2 BB, HB, 3 K) went 0-4.
Meanwhile, Eppie Quintana went 2-4 with one RBI for Ignacio and Maez was 2-2 with a run and a ribbie. Hendren was 1-3 with two runs scored and one driven in, and Phillip Quintana went 0-3 with a walk and two runs. Picked off first after leading Game 2 off with a single, Montoya ended up 2-4 with a run and an RBI.
“It felt really good winning, especially … shutting them down at the end,” said a relieved Gallegos (0-4 batting). “Definitely got to work on our errors, and make sure we make those easy plays.”
“It’s not the scores we’re used to having, especially with how we’re used to playing,” Velasquez said. “They’re a good team, especially to keep the score down, you know? One of the tougher teams we’ve seen.”
0-for-2 in Game 2 after entering as a fourth-inning substitute for Romero (1-1, R, RBI), Velasquez not only came through for Trinidad in Game 1 with his arm, but also a key two-RBI, fifth-inning single off counterpart Eppie Quintana (L, CG; 6 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) in going 2-for-3 at bat.
Rylee Montoya went 1-3 and Crosson 2-3 with an RBI (his sixth-inning courtesy runner Kaleb Valdez would score THS’ final run via an Eppie Quintana balk to Romero).
Devante Montoya went 1-4 in Game 1 with a fifth-inning, RBI-infield single plating Rylan Maez (0-1, HBP, BB) for the Bobcats’ only tally in a tight 4-1 loss. Eppie Quintana went 1-3 with a single and also reached on an error.
“I’d say we did good on the defensive part, but batting … we just need to wake up our bats,” he said. “That was really the only thing holding us back; if we could all hit, I think it’d be a different outcome.”
“Our kids … just couldn’t see that ball. I told them … you’re going to get one good fastball, but other than that be ready for a bunch of junk. (Velasquez) had some nasty curves. Other than that, it was a good time out there.”
“Hats off to Ignacio,” Miner’s head coach Greg Guzzo said. “Top to bottom, they swing the bats, they’re aggressive and they … don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re well-coached; they’re going to beat people they probably shouldn’t beat.”
With much-needed morale in the bag, 2A Ignacio (6-7, 2-2 2A/1A San Juan Basin) was to next host 1A Nucla (11-4, 3-1) Tuesday, May 3, with the SJBL crown at stake. Results from the doubleheader were unavailable at press time.
“We need to go into that with a lot of energy,” said Phillip Quintana. “This is exactly what we needed.”
Southern Peaks-pacing Trinidad slipped to 9-3 overall prior to a 5/4 two-fer in Pueblo against 2A Dolores Huerta Prep.
“I definitely think we need to take this as a way to improve ourselves,” Kendall said. “We definitely don’t need to hang our heads, let this get to us, you know? It’s just about moving on … for future games.”