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Colt outlast offensive onslaught by Dons to advance in State playoffs

NMMI shortstop Francisco Rivera makes a play on a ground ball, early in game two vs. West Las Vegas. Photo Courtesy A.J. Roe

NMMI shortstop Francisco Rivera makes a play on a ground ball, early in game two vs. West Las Vegas. Photo Courtesy A.J. Roe


NMMI Sports Press

The NMMI Colt baseball team downed the Dons to move on to the quarterfinals of the NMAA’s Class 4A State playoffs, needing just two games to win in the first round best-of-three series.

The first game Friday was a close and low-scoring affair, with the Colts collecting a shutout 2-0 win over West Las Vegas.

Saturday’s game was in many respects the complete opposite, with NMMI holding on to win a hit-fest, 11-10.

The Institute offense went to work early, plating all eleven of their runs in the first four innings.

After starting pitcher Michel Hinojos stopped the Dons without a run in the top of the first, NMMI scored three in the bottom off a pair of lead off walks to Francisco Rivera and Connor Roe, an RBI single by Gavin Maloney, a sacrifice fly by Hinojos, and an RBI ground out by Jake Guerrero.

Hinojos again blanked WLV in the top of the second, and the Colts again battered away at Don starter James Archuleta, this time bringing four runs across. Emilio Maldonado started with a single into shallow right, Roe drew the base on balls, Maloney drove in one run with an RBI double, Hinojos picked up his second and third RBIs with a single, and Guerrero got the final RBI with his second post-season triple.

In the third, both teams went scoreless, but it was ‘game on’ again in the top of the fourth. The Don bats finally caught fire, using a hit batter-single-double-single combination to score three runs in the fourth.

Undaunted by the Don offensive awakening, NMMI came back with another four runs in the bottom half of the stanza, putting the score at 11-3. Maloney led off with a walk, stole second, then went to third on a throwing error. Hinojos got his fourth RBI of the game with another sac fly. Guerrero then singled to start things up again, followed by both Alejandro Lopez and Gunnar Schwab reaching on errors, with two runs scoring during the melee. The final Institute run came on a two-out RBI single over the shortstop’s head by Fausto Baranzini.

But the Dons didn’t lay down and die. Their hot hitting continued with seven runs off nine hits over the final three innings.

After a two-run top of the fifth, the Dons chased NMMI starting pitcher Hinojos from the mound with a four-spot in the top of the sixth. Guerrero got the final out of the inning, then got the save after giving up one run in the seventh – with two outs and runners on second and third in a 11-10 ballgame, Guerrero got the next Don batter to ground out to short, giving NMMI the victory.

NMMI’s offense was again led by Maloney, who went 2 for 3 with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Hinojos was 1 for 2 with four RBIs, and Jake Guerrero was 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

“What a series! What a game!” exclaimed head coach Charlie Ward during the post-game interview. “To go 2-0 yesterday and then 11-10 today. Winning it with runners on second and third. We made it closer than it should have been, but give credit to the Dons. They fought and battled; they came to compete and they capitalized on our mistakes.”

Coach Ward also wanted to give some special credit to Francisco Rivera, who has been the day-in, day-out shortstop for the Colts all season. “Francisco hasn’t played catcher for three years, but when I needed to bring in Guerrero to close out the game, Rivera was right there, ready to go behind the plate. He did an excellent job – great team player.”

“We’ll take the ‘W’,” finished Ward. “Hinojos gave us everything he could, and Guerrero closed it out. I’m proud that we won the series. Now the magic number is three and we’re headed to the next part of state. We’ll celebrate the victory tonight, then get ready for Albuquerque next week.”

 

Colts one game closer to quarterfinals

Home run swing by NMMI’s Gavin Maloney – a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth to make it 2-0 in favor of the Colts. Photo courtesy A.J. Row

Home run swing by NMMI’s Gavin Maloney – a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth to make it 2-0 in favor of the Colts. Photo courtesy A.J. Row


NMMI Sports Press

The eighth-seeded New Mexico Military Institute Colt baseball team moved one game closer to a trip to Albuquerque and the NMAA’s Class 4A State Baseball quarterfinals by winning the first game of a best-of-three first-round series vs. ninth-seeded West Las Vegas, 2-0.

Friday’s single game featured a showdown between two of the top Class 4A arms in the state – NMMI’s Gavin Maloney and WLV’s Robbie Alarcon – both junior left-handed hurlers with season ERAs only slightly above 2.00. Thus it was no surprise that the afternoon contest ended up as a true pitcher’s duel.

NMMI’s struck first, capitalizing in the bottom of the first inning on back-to-back singles by Maloney and Michel Hinojos, with courtesy runner Gunnar Schwab coming in to score on a fielding error on Hinojos’ hit to center field.

That single run was all either team could manage until the Colts’ doubled their lead in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and no one on, Maloney helped his cause by blasting a 2-0 pitch over the right field fence for what would end up being the final run of the game.

“It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen an out-of-the-park home run by a high school player,” said head coach Charlie Ward, “and that was back when we were swinging aluminum. That was a shot by Gavin. I was just shouting ‘Get out of here, GET OUTTA HERE!’”

On the mound, Maloney narrowly missed the complete game no-hitter, but it was broken up with one out in the top of the seventh by an infield single by West Las Vegas’ Joaquin Barela.

Said Ward, “Gavin pitched great, almost had the no-hitter. We don’t like to talk about that much, instead we’d rather focus on the win, but he was only two outs away.”

Maloney finished the game for the shut-out win, allowing just that one hit, while picking up five strikeouts.

On offense, NMMI bats managed seven hits vs. Alarcon, who also went the distance for the Dons, fanning nine Colts with just one walk.

“We knew he was a pitcher,” said Ward of Alarcon, “and we found out he was the real deal. He did his job. His curve ball was working. We had some opportunities early, we just couldn’t get the big RBI hit.”

Maloney went 3 for 3 in the game with a run and RBI off the home run; Hinojos was 2 for 3 with a pair of singles; Jasper Best was 1 for 3; and Jake Guerrero was 1 for 3 with a lead-off triple in the bottom of the sixth, but the Colts couldn’t bring him home for the extra insurance run.

On the defensive side the Colts looked solid. They committed two errors, but managed to pitch and catch out of them.

“Our defense did great,” reiterated Ward. “We should have had two double plays but just couldn’t hang to the final throw at first on one of them. We only made two errors and managed to get past both of them.”

With Friday’s win, the Colts need to take one of the two scheduled games for Saturday – the first  match is slated for 10:00 am at the NMMI Ballpark, with the second ‘if’ game set for 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first.

“In the first round, you have to win two out of three,” explained coach Ward. “They’ve got a No. 2 pitcher that is really good. We’ll throw Hinojos, who’s done a great job for us all season. It’s going to be another battle tomorrow. For the big picture, the magic number was five, now it’s four – but the next game is the most important.”

 

Win or lose at state, Colt baseball is something special

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NMMI Sports Press

Head Colt Baseball Coach Charlie Ward

Head Colt Baseball Coach Charlie Ward

If you look at the brackets for the New Mexico high school 4A baseball championships, you’ll see five very familiar names competing for the top prize.

Hope Christian and Portales are seeded No. 1 and 2; Ruidoso and NMMI are No. 7-8; and Moriarty is No. 13. All five teams from District 4-4A qualified for the 16-team state tournament, which Colt coach Charlie Ward said is a testament of the talent of the district teams this year.

“It’s probably the hardest district I’ve even been a part of, from one to five,” he said. “I’ve been here at NMMI almost 20 years, and these were the toughest 12 district games we’ve ever had.”

Catcher Jake Guerrero dives to try and make the play on a foul pop-up behind home plate - game vs. Portales on Apr. 21, 2017.

Catcher Jake Guerrero dives to try and make the play on a foul pop-up behind home plate – game vs. Portales on Apr. 21, 2017.

And he’s not the only one thinking that way. At the District 4-4A meeting, Ward said all the coaches were talking about the other teams.

“We have a lot of pride in our district,” he said. “Our coaches have a lot of respect for our programs. At our district meeting, that’s all I heard, was coaches complimenting the other teams. Amazing. I’ve never been a part of that. They spoke highly of (Michel) Hinojos. Jake (Guerrero). I didn’t have to brag about them. They said, ‘Coach, you’ve got some boys who can rake.’ And I said, ‘You do too.’ We just all talked about our kids. That’s very cool.”

Michel Hinojos fields a ball that goes foul down the third base line - game vs. Santa Rosa on Mar. 24, 2017.

Michel Hinojos fields a ball that goes foul down the third base line – game vs. Santa Rosa on Mar. 24, 2017.

And that competition, the coach said, has his team ready to compete.

“This district has prepared us, playing these three-game series,” he said. “All the hard part’s done now –  getting to state and earning a first-round series at home. This is going to be fun. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but this should be a relaxed atmosphere.”

Still, Ward knows the Colts have probably the toughest match of the entire opening weekend. With a 15-10-1, 3-8-1 record, NMMI was rewarded with a home game as the No. 8 seed, while District 2-4A West Las Vegas comes to town at No. 9. And ask anyone, the Colt coach said, and they’ll tell you the 8-9 matchup is the one to watch.

Jasper Best slides safe into third, narrowly avoiding the tag by Rocket third baseman Owen Alsup - game vs. Goddard JV in Dexter's Hal Bogle Classic, Mar. 17, 2017.

Jasper Best slides safe into third, narrowly avoiding the tag by Rocket third baseman Owen Alsup – game vs. Goddard JV in Dexter’s Hal Bogle Classic, Mar. 17, 2017.

“Any kind of 8-9 because it could go either way,” he said.

The Dons (12-5-1, 6-9-1) come in Friday for a 4 p.m. game, the first of a possible three-game series. Game 1 will feature a matchup between Colt Gavin Maloney, a junior left hander with a 5-1 record and 2.12 ERA vs. Robbie Alarcon, a junior lefty with a 4-2 record and 2.07 ERA.

Ward doesn’t think Las Vegas will hit as hard as the 4-4A teams did — “I was told they can pitch. Offensively, I don’t think they’re going to be a team that swings like what we saw in our district” — but he wants his team ready for what’s essentially a new season in all aspects of the game.

Gavin Maloney pitch during the Colt's firstdistrict game vs. Portales on Apr. 21, 2017.

Gavin Maloney pitch during the Colt’s first district game vs. Portales on Apr. 21, 2017.

“It’s 0-0. It’s going to be about pitching and defense,” he said. “That should be a perfect atmosphere for both teams, to make plays and be backing their pitcher. I believe our pitching is going to give us a chance. But we’ve got to make plays. We’ve got to get 21 outs and we’ve got to do it twice.”

Plus, they need to get the bats ready.

Connor Roe heads to the foul line - and the fence - trying to make a play on a fly ball hit into right field - game vs. Goddard JV, Dexter's Hal Bogle Classic, Mar. 17, 2017.

Connor Roe heads to the foul line – and the fence – trying to make a play on a fly ball hit into right field – game vs. Goddard JV, Dexter’s Hal Bogle Classic, Mar. 17, 2017.

“I think is the key is going to be situational hitting:: two-strike hitting and hitting with men on base,” said Ward. “Hopefully we can capitalize on mistakes and can get some RBIs and score some runs.”

With almost perfect baseball weather predicted for Friday — 84 degrees with light winds — the Colts are set to go.

“We believe in ourselves. This team is ready and they deservedly know they’re where they belong, at the No. 8 seed,” Ward said.

Shortstop Francisco Rivera makes the play on a ground ball up the middle - game vs. Mesilla Valley Christian, Dexter's Hal Bogle Classic, Mar. 16, 2017.

Shortstop Francisco Rivera makes the play on a ground ball up the middle – game vs. Mesilla Valley Christian, Dexter’s Hal Bogle Classic, Mar. 16, 2017.

And while all they’re currently looking at is this opening series, the tournament continues May 11 in Albuquerque, with quarterfinal games in Rio Rancho, semifinals at the University of New Mexico and the championship at Isotopes park.

“The magic number is five games,” Ward said. “If you want to win it all you’ve got to win five games, but the most important are this Friday and Saturday.”

Even in their losses, the Colts played close against all the district teams, so even if they have to face the Huskies again — which they almost certainly would if they win this weekend — Ward is confident they can come out on top.

Alex Lopex with the hard-hit ball in a game vs. Loving on Mar. 28, 2017.

Alex Lopex with the hard-hit ball in a game vs. Loving on Mar. 28, 2017.

“We’re just excited to be here,” he said. “I know it’s going to be difficult but we have confidence. These kids still feel good. For all the adverse conditions and everything we went through in our district, these kids never gave up. You know how close we were to beating both Portales and Hope. Everything we did in our district shows we’re capable of competing with them.”

And win or lose, Ward said this year’s team has a closeness like no other squad he’s ever had.

Base hit by Emilio Maldonado vs. MVCS on Mar. 16, 2017.

Base hit by Emilio Maldonado vs. MVCS on Mar. 16, 2017.

“During my 20-year run as head coach, I’ve had some great teams and competitive teams; and we expect to always be in the playoffs,” he said. “But this year’s squad is probably the closest and most enthusiastic team I’ve ever had. They cares about each other. They support each other. They’re there for each other. Part of my job is being the one who’s got to criticize them, but I’m going to tell you, through ups and downs, this team is behind each other 120 percent. That’s really what I care about, that they care about each other. Baseball is just the icing on the cake. Come this weekend, we’re going to go out there and do the best we can, but regardless, this is just a great group of kids.”

NMMI’s Gunner Schwab with the sacrifice bunt in the top of the second inning - game vs. MVCS, Mar. 16, 2017

NMMI’s Gunner Schwab with the sacrifice bunt in the top of the second inning – game vs. MVCS, Mar. 16, 2017

Pinch runner Fausto Baranzini slides in safe at third after a single by Michel Hinojos - game vs. MVCS, Mar. 17, 2017.

Pinch runner Fausto Baranzini slides in safe at third after a single by Michel Hinojos – game vs. MVCS, Mar. 16, 2017.

At bat by Jose Baranzini vs. Moriaty, Mar. 31, 2017.

At bat by Jose Baranzini vs. Moriarty, Mar. 31, 2017.

 

Another Bronco netter headed to a four-year school

NMMI's Lorish Surrounded by her teammates, Lorish Puluspene signs her LOI to play at Henderson State next season. Also seated at the table with Puluspene (center) are NMMI Athletic Director Jose Barron (left) and head women's tennis coach Dan O'Connell (right).

Surrounded by her teammates, NMMI’s Lorish Puluspene signs her LOI to play at Henderson State next season. Also seated at the table with Puluspene (center) are NMMI Athletic Director Jose Barron (left) and head women’s tennis coach Dan O’Connell (right).


HendersonStateUReddiesNMMI Sports Press

A long-time student of Lady Bronco tennis coach Dan O’Connell will be joining several teammates at a four-year school. Lorish Puluspene is headed to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., joining former teammates Thea Minor and Lorraine Banimataku.

O’Connell is proud of all his athletes, but Puluspene, from Papua, New Guinea, just may be a little extra special, since he’s known her since she was 11 years old.

LorishPuluspene

Lorish Puluspene

“I recruited her to the training center in Fiji,” he said. “She was there with me for six years and then I left to come to the best junior college in the country, New Mexico Military Institute.”

Two years ago, he brought her to the Institute, where she helped the Broncos to success.

“She’s been a fantastic young lady for seven or eight years, and she’ll do very well in life,” the coach said. “I’ll miss her dearly. She’s a superstar.”

During a trip to play the Reddies last year, HSU coach Brenda Joiner asked Puluspene if she wanted to come play for her, and the sophomore said yes.

Lorish Puluspene in a singles match vs. the University of the Southwest on April 21, 2015.

Lorish Puluspene in a singles match as an NMMI freshman vs. the University of the Southwest on April 21, 2015.

“I took that offer,” she said, explaining that playing with her former teammates is the best part. “That’s going to be exciting, especially because one of my best friends (Banimataku) is there. It’s going to be tough for me, because I’ve played her so many times, and we’ve had our ups and downs. Winning, losing and so on.”

Puluspene isn’t sure where she’ll play in the lineup — she’s guessing No. 3 or 4 — but just going on to a four-year college is what’s important. She’s be studying sports management at the DII Great American Conference school, and said what she learned at NMMI will help as she advances.

“What I have learned here I will take to my next school, so it’s going to be easy for me to adjust to my new university,” she said.

And O’Connell was also a huge help.

“He has helped me a lot since I was 11 years old, over in Fiji and now here,” Puluspene said. “He’s helped me a lot in both tennis and academics.”

And, she had a lot of people to thank for her success.

“I would like to thank my family, who’s always been there supporting me throughout my tennis career. And without coach, I wouldn’t be here. Also thanks to NMMI, for bringing me this far in terms of leadership and responsibility. And also, I would like to thank my old coaches from Papua, New Guinea, coach Kwalam Apisah and coach Vera Tere Apisah. And I’m looking forward to joining coach Brenda at Henderson.”

Colt and Lady Colt Tennis Head to State

Ana Ruja takes a swing at the district tennis tournament.

Ana Ruja takes a swing at the district tennis tournament.

 

We are two days away from the beginning of the NMAA State Tennis Championships in Albuquerque.

The Colts and Lady Colts have qualified athletes to participate in individual singles and double play, held Wednesday and Thursday at UNM’s Jerry Cline Tennis Complex; and the team competition being held Friday and Saturday at Albuquerque Academy.

Meagan Lynch attempts a shot last Thursday during the district tournament.

Megan Lynch attempts a shot last Thursday during the district tournament.

As the top-ranked A-AAAA player in the girls’ singles bracket, Megan Lynch has a first round bye.

Head coach Will Cavin knows the road to a state title won’t be easy, but is very optimistic about Lynch’s chances. “Megan will have some competition up there and it is not going to be a walk in the park. She is going to have to go up there and show what she is capable of and I feel like she should be the next state champion for A-AAAA.”

Lynch is scheduled to play the winner of St. Michael’s Kyra Chavez and Mesilla Valley Christian’s Anne Ikard, on Thursday, May 4th at 11:00 AM.

Ana Ruja and Eliana Ward are heading into girls doubles play as the No. 4 ranked doubles team in Class A-AAAA and will also have to wait and see who they will be playing due to a first round bye.

Eliana Ward takes a swing during the district championships.

Eliana Ward takes a swing during the district championships.

Cavin said, “These are two of my newest student-athletes who came in at the beginning of the year and just recently started playing together. They have done a great job of coming together and becoming a team and I expect great things from them.”

Ruja and Ward will take on the winner of Bosque’s Baca/Lamb and Sandia Prep’s McDermott/Atkins, at 8:00 AM on Thursday, May 4th.

Baseline backhand by NMMI’s Farid Yunes during his No. 1 singles match.

Baseline backhand by NMMI’s Farid Yunes during his No. 1 singles match.

The Colts have two participants competing in boys singles play. Farid Yunes has a first round bye and will play the winner of Taos’ Jens Crosby and Bosque’s Thomas Donahue, at 11:00 AM on Thursday, May 4th.

“Yunes is a competitor and he will go out there and play well for us,” said Cavin.

Along with Yunes, Francisco Saracho will also be playing in the singles tournament. Saracho defeated Zach Laurenz of Portales – 6-4, 6-1 –  in a match on Monday to punch his ticket to State.

“First round, Saracho should do really well. His real test will come against Neil Katzman from Bosque, who is a solid tennis player,” said Cavin.

Saracho will take on Cole Gartner from Santa Fe Prep, at 7 PM Wednesday evening.

Allen DeGroot and Luis Fontes are the lone duo participating in the boy’s doubles competition and will have a first round bye due to a No.3 ranking.

Allen DeGroot smashes a serve during the district tournament last Thursday.

Allen DeGroot smashes a serve during the district tournament last Thursday.

Coach Cavin said the two have been playing together since they were freshman in high school.”They do a great job of playing together. Both of them have improved significantly in single play as well as doubles.”

DeGroot and Fontes will be taking on winners of Sandia Prep’s McCormick/Lewis and St. Michael’s Johnson/Smith, at 8:00 AM on Thursday, May 4th.

For team play, beginning on Friday, the Colts and Lady Colts  both earned the No. 3 seed.

The Lady Colts will take on the No.6 ranked Portales Rams starting at 10:30 AM at Albuquerque Academy.

“The girls will open up against Portales and I feel pretty confident we will get to the next round, where we will play Mesilla Valley again,” said Cavin. “We lost to them 5-4 in the district tournament and we were so close to beating them. I think we have a great shot to play for a State Championship.”

As for the boys, the Colts open up against No. 6 ranked Taos starting at 3 PM, also at the Albuquerque Academy courts.

“I really don’t know much about Taos, but I feel pretty confident we will get past them,” said Cavin. “Once again, we will have to play Mesilla Valley in the Semi-Finals and we lost 5-4 this last Friday during district play, so the Championship is up for grabs.”