RIO RANCHO – The long ball and small ball did in St. Michael’s Thursday in the Class 4A state baseball quarterfinals.
No. 2 Silver rallied for two runs in the sixth inning without a hit, breaking a 4-all tie and taking a 6-4 victory.
“That was the tale of the tape,” said Horsemen coach Augie Ruiz. “They essentially gave us two outs bunting it right at us. We made the wrong decision on one and threw it away on the other. That’s the difference in the game.”
The seventh-seeded Horsemen jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, but more important were the runners who never reached home as the team stranded eight through the first four innings.
“The guys were getting on base, obviously,” Ruiz said. “We left bases juiced, second and third.”
St. Mike’s (18-11) still led 4-1 going into the bottom of the fourth when things really fell apart.
A single, a perfectly placed bunt single and sacrifice bunt brought home a run for Silver, then nine-hole hitter, freshman Eddie Flores, unloaded a bomb over the left-field fence to tie it.
“He actually has not played all that much this year,” Colts coach Claudie Thompson said. “But we just had a gut felling this morning and went with it, and it worked.”
And that changed the complexion of the whole game.
“That was the difference in the game,” Thompson said. “They had the momentum and we were doing just enough to stay in it and that turned things around. That was a big momentum shift.”
The shift was palpable, Ruiz said.
“Once they tied it up, these (St. Mike’s) guys tensed up,” he said. “I saw it. I saw their emotions get the best of them. It got to be a tied ball game and they tightened up.”
It marred what was otherwise a relatively strong pitching performance from Horsemen senior Sean Latham.
“One mistake, a change-up away,” Ruiz said. “He (the Colts’ Flores) got his arms out and hit it where he pitched it.”
In the sixth, Latham walked the leadoff batter, then threw wild to second on bunt back to him.
“I was thinking I had it all the way and I just lost my footing,” he said of the throw to second that sailed high.
The next batter also bunted back to Latham, but his throw to third was wild, allowing one run to score. Another run subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly.
“It was disappointing,” Latham said of the way his high school career ended.
It was fairly typical of a Horsemen-Silver (22-7) clash, Thompson said.
“We have a long history with St. Michael’s at the state tournament,” he said. “They’ve gotten us, we’ve gotten them. They’re a real classy program. I have a lot of respect for them. We always play good against them and they play a good game against us.”
Silver changed pitchers after the fourth, going to Adrian Saucedo, and that also had an impact, Ruiz said.
Saucedo pitched “from a different arm angle,” Ruiz said. “He had kind of a herky-jerky motion and the ball was coming in from a different angle. All of the guys started pulling off the ball and we really couldn’t barrel anything up on it.”
Ruiz said it’s been a strong two years building the St. Mike’s program.
“I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to coach them the last two years,” he said. “I wish I had them another three. But it was a pleasure having them for the time I had them because they all embraced everything we brought and they bought into it. And we’ve been close. We’ve been here two years in a row and this year it just didn’t go our way, but they have set the bar high for these younger guys.”