When you have New Mexico’s strikeout leader taking the mound in the state championship game, you have to like your chances.
New Mexico Military Institute (23-6) rode the dominant pitching of Luis A. Patron to the program’s first-ever state championship winning 17-1 in five innings over East Mountain (19-8) in the 3A baseball final Saturday at Santa Ana Star Field.
Patron scattered three hits over 4 ⅔ innings, striking out 12 and not walking a batter. He recorded his first 10 outs by strikeout and was backed by a prolific offense that allowed the Colts to assume command of the game from the outset.
“I didn’t expect this amount of runs,” Patron said after the win. “I expected 21 outs, and much respect to (East Mountain). They won twice against us, and we won once, but I’m really proud of the team getting 17 runs. It gave me a lot of confidence pitching.”
The third-seeded Colts scored at least three runs in each of the first four innings build the insurmountable lead.
While the hits did not come in bunches for NMMI, they were timely. Coupled with 13 walks issued by the East Mountain staff, multiple wild pitches, two hit batters, and three errors, the Timberwolves were never really in the hunt.
“When you give up that many walks, it’s really difficult to stay in any game,” said East Mountain coach Ray Demarest. “We didn’t execute the game plan we had coming in.”
The opening frame was a microcosm of the five innings.
Gentry Caplan drove a one-out single up the middle to start the three-run first.
Jose Barcelo followed with a single, but the T-Wolves were poised to get a double play and escape the threat.
Miguel Rivera hit a routine grounder to shortstop. The ball was fielded cleanly, but on the transfer from glove-to-hand, the ball was dropped as all runners advanced.
Patron then laced a bases-clearing double to left-center giving the Colts the early 3-0 lead.
NMMI tacked on four more runs in the second with nary a base hit. The first five batters reached by walk or hit by pitch, and Patron’s fly ball to right field was dropped allowing the final two runs to score.
It was a far cry from the night before, when the Colts found themselves in a 9-3 hole to Raton entering the bottom of the sixth.
That night’s deficit was wiped away in similar fashion to the opening two innings Saturday as the Colts benefited from a multitude of walks and misplays by the opposition to score eight runs to escape with the win.
“Last night, down by six…I’ve been a part of a lot of games, and that was the wildest inning I’ve been a part of,” said NMMI coach Charlie Ward, who announced his retirement after the game.
“We probably played the best perfect game in all three phases today. People had quality at-bats, clutch hitting, two-out hitting, and Luis (Patron) is the real deal. He’s a humble kid, and he does everything for his team first. I’ve very proud to have been a part of it.”
No. 3 NEW MEXICO MILITARY INSTITUTE 17,
No. 5 EAST MOUNTAIN 1 (5 innings)
NMMI 344 60—17 6 0
East Mountain 000 10—1 3 3
Batteries: N, Luis A. Patron, Bailey Mego (5) and Jose Barcelo. EM, Trace Krueger, Cole Phillips (3) and Phillips, Garrett Hitchcock (3). Leading Hitters: N, Miguel Rivera 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI; Luis A. Patron 1-4, 2B, 3 RBI; Gentry Caplan, 1-1, 3 BBs, 4 runs scored. EM, Phillips 1-3, 3B, 1 run; Garrett Hitchcock, 1-3, RBI.