Colt baseball’s Maloney and Rivera represent well at North-South All-Star games

As has become tradition at the annual All-Star games, players exchange uniforms. Francisco Rivera (left) in a Texico Wolverines jersey and cap; Gavin Maloney in a Cobre Indians top and Wolverines hat.

NMMI Sports Press

Two Colt baseball players wrapped up their high school careers in style — making both the All North-South (A-4A) and 4A All Star teams — and both are headed off to play college ball as Broncos. But they’ll play for different schools: one at NMMI and the other in California.

Outfielder/pitcher Gavin Maloney and infielder Francisco Rivera were both picked as first team players on the North-South squad — an annual tradition for the best seniors in the state. Colt outfielder Connor Roe was also chosen as an alternate.

The games were held June 8-9 at the UNM Stadium in Albuquerque, and included a trio of games as well as lots of fun, food and hoopla.

“It was a great time,” said Colt coach Charlie Ward. “Great memories for our kids. We were very proud.”

Gavin Maloney awaits a pitch during a game at Dexter’s Hal Bogle Classic.

Prior to the actual All-Star games, Maloney was chosen as one of six players to compete in the home run derby. He was the only one able to lift anything out of the massive park (338 feet down the lines, 408 in left and right and 430 in center) during the competition, tallying four dingers over the outer walls.

“They were shots. Two of them were lasers,” Ward said.

Both Maloney and Rivera had key roles to play in the opening game between the two teams, which the South won 4-3.

“Our boys represented our school and district well,” the coach said.

Maloney played right field, and after walking twice early in the game, stepped up to the plate with a 3-3 tie in the seventh and tripled to center. He then scored on an RBI double by Hatch catcher James Gimler, bringing home the winning run.

Francisco Rivera pitching in a home game for the Colts.

Rivera played third in second half of that game, and kept the score tied with stellar fielding in the bottom of the sixth. With the bases loaded and two outs, he made a great back-hand catch at third base and then stepped on the bag to end the inning. He also made the final out in the bottom of seventh to give the South the one-run win.

Game 2 was a pitchers’ duel, what Ward called “the fastest high school game in a long time.”

Pitching for the South, Maloney, and his counterpart on the North, both sat batters down in order, and heading into the fifth the game was scoreless. The North side then managed a single run thanks to a dropped pop-fly, and the relief pitchers for both sides kept the batters off base with the North winning 1-0.

Game 3 was both lots of fun and a blowout for the South, which won 17-2.

The players all swapped uniforms, with Rivera wearing a Texico Wolverine jersey and Maloney a Cobre Indian jersey and Texico hat.

“They had a blast,” Ward said.

With Texico pitcher Ben Crist — who pitched on last three Class A state championship teams — the South made it look easy, as Crist shut the North batters down and the South hitters stung the ball.

Maloney played center and pitched the final inning, getting a single at the plate.

Moriarty Pinto Ben Lipke, who dropped the fly ball in Game 2, hit a 3-run home run to left and had a 2-RBI double, easily making up for his mistake earlier.

“They told me they had a great time. They had a lot of fun,” Ward said. And, he added, Hope Christian coach Glen Copeland, who helmed the South, was “very impressed with NMMI players and how they handled themselves.”

“The most fun part of the weekend was meeting all the players from the teams we used to play against and making all the new friends,” Maloney said.

“The All-Star series weekend was a really fun experience that I will never forget,” Rivera said. “Having the honor to represent the Dirty South was really cool, and getting to play with Gavin for three more high school games made it more fun and an experience that I will never forget. Meeting the players from other teams and having the opportunity to know them more and create new friendships is also one of the best parts of that weekend. I’m really thankful that I got the chance to play in the All-Star game.”

The pair continued to rack up honors as the Class 4A All-State teams were announced. Maloney was picked as a first-team All State outfielder and second team pitcher; Rivera was named to the second team as a shortstop, just beaten out by a Hope player who also won player of the year honors.

Maloney, who signed earlier in the year with the DI Santa Clara University Broncos, was also recently named as a first-team member of USA Today’s All-USA New Mexico baseball team.

“I’m really excited to get there and compete at a high level and I’m just going to focus on getting better every day and being the best ball player I can be,” he said.

Calling the Roswell native “one of the top three players out of the 20 years I’ve been here,” Ward said he’s certain he’ll see Maloney on the field as a freshman.

“I believe Gavin is going to do exceptionally well. He has a great work ethic. He understands the game. He will do the extra things. He will be one who will do the little things. He understands what it takes, and I know he’ll compete for a starting spot right away.”

And while he’s pretty sure Maloney has seen his last action on the mound, he thinks there’s nothing else the Colt turned Bronco can’t do.

“He’s just a player,” Ward said. “He can swing a bat. He can play the outfield. He’s got a great jump. For as tall as he is, that boy can run. He’s got good speed. He tells me he wants to steal bases. Gavin also has that leadership ability that’s going to carry over with him.

“I think what’s going to carryover for him in his next opportunity is how he swings the bat. He’s got great bat speed. Swings with power. He’ll have that opportunity.”

Rivera became the latest Colt to move on to the next level when he signed in June to play for head coach Chris Cook and the NMMI Broncos, where he’ll rejoin with two former Colt teammates, Jake Guerrero and Michel Hinojos, both of whom saw significant playing time last season as freshman.

“Francisco’s parents are very proud he is going to get an opportunity,” Ward said. “Coach (Chris) Cook is going to give him a chance.”

“I’m planning to continue with my baseball career at the Institute playing for the Broncos,” Rivera said. “Having the opportunity to be part of the team is an honor to me. I look forward to working hard to gain a spot in the team with the help of coach Cook.”

Ward said Rivera’s quickness in the field will carry over, and he’ll learn a lot at the college level.

“His best attribute is his quickness at short,” the coach said. “Nice glove. His arm. His bat will come. College coaches will teach him how to swing.

“They’re going to find a guy with a heart who’s a true competitor and will be here for this team. He’ll be a team player, and he’ll get better. I’m looking forward to seeing him get bigger, stronger, faster and play at the next level.

And in the Corps, Rivera will also be a leader, as he’s been picked to be a troop commander.

“We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Colt baseball players who have moved on to becoming Bronco’s over the past couple of years,” said head Bronco coach Chris Cook. “Rivera is a great kid, a hard worker, and his energy will immediately make him a positive influence in our program. With more baseball development time being available at the college level, I believe he has a chance to really take off in our program.”

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