Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Jun. 23—Missed opportunities.

For the St. Michael’s baseball team, the Horsemen made nightmares come true with tons of them on the basepaths this high school baseball season. On Tuesday afternoon in front of an overflow bipartisan crowd at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex — most in royal blue, a lot in cardinal red — it all finally caught up to them.

“I don’t think we won a game this year when we didn’t leave at least eight guys on base,” said St. Michael’s head coach Augie Ruiz.

The Horsemen stranded 10 runners in Tuesday’s 11-7 loss to visiting Robertson in the single-elimination quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament. What’s more, those failures left the door open for the Cardinals.

They gladly kicked that door off its hinges in the top of the seventh inning. Trailing 5-4 and just three outs from the offseason, Robertson scored seven runs off three Horsemen pitchers to reach Wednesday’s semifinals.

The sixth-seeded Cards will visit No. 2 East Mountain in Sandia Park. The Timberwolves hammered No. 7 Navajo Prep 21-5 in other action Tuesday, while the other side of the bracket saw No. 1 Sandia Prep roll past Socorro and No. 5 New Mexico Military go on the road to beat Cobre.

The state championship game will be Friday in Albuquerque.

To eliminate an archrival like St. Michael’s makes advancing all the more sweet for Robertson.

“There’s a lot of talking out there, for sure,” said Cardinals starting pitcher Adrian Rivera. “I don’t know if it’s bad blood or anything, but that’s definitely a big rival. Coming in here and winning this on their field, it feels good.”

Rivera earned a no-decision on the mound, but it’s safe to say his efforts are what carried his team to the win. He logged five innings, allowing five runs with eight strikeouts. He was lifted with his team trailing 5-3, but in the final frame he came up huge at the plate.

In short, that last inning was going to be a hard one for St. Michael’s to get past. The Cardinals plated seven runs to blow the game wide open. Their first five batters all reached, including a leadoff infield single by Steven Lovato that chased St. Michael’s starter Thomas Erickson from the game.

A senior righthander, he was solid in the middle innings when he retired 10 of the 12 batters he faced. His only problem was his pitch count, which sat at 106 after gave up that hit to Lovato to start the seventh. The limit per NMAA rules is 120.

“I told him if he gave up a hit that first at-bat, that would be his last batter,” Ruiz said.

Enter Derek Martinez. He was greeted rudely, hitting his first batter, giving up a game-tying RBI double to Ace Gonzalez a moment later, then a lazy pop fly just past the infield skin along the foul line beyond third base to Rivera. As harmless as it appeared, the sky-high pop found empty real estate between three Horsemen and allowed Derrick Montano to score from third with the go-ahead run.

“I didn’t hit it good but, you know, I guess I didn’t have to,” Rivera said. “In a game like this, sometimes that’s all you need.”

It opened the floodgates for Robertson. Martinez didn’t record an out, exiting the mound after Rivera’s at-bat. Each of the next four hitters had productive plate appearances, including a sacrifice fly by Kenneth Archuleta, a clutch pinch-hit RBI single by Rico Montoya and a two-run bomb by Lubby Marrujo.

The scheduled starter for Wednesday’s semifinal, Marrujo knew the ball was gone as soon as he hit it. So did St. Michael’s catcher CeeJay Saiz, said as much before Marrujo even left the batter’s box.

“He said, ‘That’s outta here,’ ” Marrujo said. “He’s a good guy and, yeah, we had fun with it.”

The Horsemen scored twice in the bottom of the seventh and had the tying run on deck in the form of Saiz when the game ended. Saiz had homered earlier in the game and finished 3-for-4 with three RBI. He was one of four Horsemen with at least two hits, and was joined in the homer club by teammate Troy Ettenson.

Despite the fireworks, the only thing anyone wanted to talk about after the game was Robertson’s last-inning eruption and all those missed opportunities by the Horsemen.

“The mood in the dugout was the same it has been every time we get in this situation, and that’s never give up and keep the energy,” said Robertson coach Leroy Gonzalez. “Sometimes it doesn’t work but this time it did.”


No state tournament was played last year because of the coronavirus, meaning Robertson’s postseason winning streak is now six games after running the table as the top seed in 2019. … Of the 10 men left on for St. Michael’s, seven were stranded in scoring position. The Horsemen had the based loaded with one out in the bottom of the first but only managed one run, then had runners at second and third with one out and the heart of the order up in the fourth but left both right there. … The Horsemen graduated three seniors this season, one of whom was Ettenson, a player Ruiz said was invaluable because of the work ethic he brought to practice every day. “In fact, if these young guys coming back for us learn anything from the seniors it’s the effort and attitude they had,” Ruiz said. … Every spot in Robertson’s order had at least one hit or one run scored. The Nos. 7 and 8 hitters, Quik Cordova and Kenneth Archuleta, combined to go 3-for-5 with four runs and two RBI with a pair of walks.