Colts unable to hold on against Hope

Michel Hinojos with the ground-rule double into the gap between center and right, plating a run in a big seven-run fourth inning for the Colts.


Paul Burrow

NMMI Sports Press 

NMMI ace Gavin Maloney with a pitch in the first inning of play.

The NMMI Colts ventured to Rio Rancho High School to take on the No. 1 seeded Hope Huskies in the quarterfinals of the New Mexico AAAA State Baseball Championships. The district foes meet for the fourth time this year and to the dismay of the rather large Colt contingent, the fourth time was not the charm as NMMI fell 10-9 on a walk-off hit by pitch.

NMMI out-hit Hope 11-5 but eight errors, nine walks and two hit batsmen did in the Colts. Hope had just one extra base hit in the game with four singles, while NMMI seniors Michel Hinojos stroked two doubles and Jake Guerrero boasted a triple and a single to provide the power for the Colts.

NMMI shortstop Francisco Rivera with the throw to first after a ground ball.

Francisco Rivera had two Colt hits as well. Guerrero, Rivera, and another senior Alex Lopez all had two RBI’s. Guerrero and Hinojos each scored twice for the Colts.

Hope opened the scoring in the bottom of the first taking a 2-0 lead as starter Gavin Maloney gave up a two-RBI single to Brandon Bagon. Maloney settled in after that with three straight three up and three down innings.

NMMI answered back in the top of the second when Hinojos led off with a booming double off the right-center field wall that just missed going out of the park. Guerrero moved him over with a groundout and Lopez followed with a sac-fly to move the Colts to within 2-1.

Coach Steve Rogers talks to his battery between innings: catcher Jake Guerrero and pitcher Gavin Maloney.

In the fourth, the Colt lineup woke up and batted around sending twelve batters to the plate and scoring six runs on six hits and three walks to grab an 8-2 lead. With their ace on the mound, the Colt faithful felt the victory within grasp.

Hope was not to be deterred as they responded in the 5th inning by sending eleven batters up but with a decidedly different way of scoring as the Colts contributed with three errors and four walks to extend the Huskies batting. Hope was able to tally six runs to tie the game up at 8-8 and shed a whole new light on the game.

NMMI moved back into the lead in the top of the 7th when Guerrero got his second hit of the game with a single, moved to second on a stolen base and to third on a wild pitch. Alex Lopez worked a walk, and moved to second on a stolen base to bring up Emilio Maldonado with one out. This is Coach Ward’s favorite baseball strategy of small-ball as Maldonado and Guerrero executed a perfect squeeze play. Guerrero took off for home during the pitcher’s windup and Maldonado laid down a bunt out in front of the plate. The Hope pitcher had no choice but to throw Maldonado out at first as Guerrero scored before the bunt was even fielded to put the Colts up 9-8 going into the bottom of the seventh.

Alejandro Lopez narrowly missed getting a two-run dinger during the Colts’ rally in the fourth. He sent one out of the park down the right field line, but it was foul by about 15 feet. Lopez did manage an RBI single during the at-bat, keeping the rally alive.

Guerrero relieved Maloney on the mound in the 5th inning, helping the Colts end the Husky rally. He then pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the 6th inning with a huge strikeout, but the 7th was to be another story. Guerrero walked the first two batters and then his defense let him down as a force play at third could not be executed. The initial error was then compounded as the throw-back to the pitcher sailed over everyone’s head up the right field line allowing the tying run to score. The Colts then elected to intentionally walk the next Husky batter to load the bases, allowing for a force out at home. Coach Ward’s strategy worked, as the next Hope hitter hit a grounder to second, which Hinojos promptly relayed to catcher Rivera for the out at the plate. But the next batter was hit by the pitch, driving in the winning run for about an unusual walk-off as you will ever see.

Fausto Baranzini rounds third and heads for home after an RBI single by Francisco Rivera in the fourth.

Coach Ward in his dismay commented,” I hurt. I hurt for the boys. We did great things today on offense. We’re a great team. It was a great year. We had our chances, just didn’t get it done. Give Hope Christian credit for making the comeback, but to beat the No. 1 team in the state, you just can’t give them extra outs. We kept responding – we fought. We just didn’t make the last play and they did. They were the better team today.”

The Colts end their season with a 17-11-1 record while Hope moves on to the semifinals against the winner of the late game between Silver City and Taos. NMMI graduates seven seniors from this year’s team.

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