There remain some loose ends to tie up in the next three weeks – including the selection of the Journal’s overall male and female athletes of the year from the metro area – but let’s for now reflect on a tremendous final week of competition to end the 2021-22 prep sports calendar.
There was a preponderance of teams – in golf, track, baseball and softball – with deep tradition who punctuated the week by adding to the hardware that already exists in their trophy cases. Like the St. Pius baseball team.
The final pitch of the baseball season was thrown at 9:25 Saturday night, when St. Pius finished off a shockingly one-sided 15-2 victory over Albuquerque Academy in the Class 4A state final.
The Sartans, in winning their 12th blue trophy, certainly purged from their collective consciousness much of the lingering bitterness they had from losing to their rivals in the same game 11 months earlier.
“We wanted to punch them straight in the mouth,” was how St. Pius junior Gene Trujillo bluntly put it. On his wedding day, this kid cannot have a wider smile on his face than the one he displayed Saturday night.
St. Pius and Carlsbad bagged their 12th titles on the same day; only Eunice, now with 18, and Farmington, with 14, have registered more baseball championships than the Cavemen and Sartans.
And as I noted in my game stories in Sunday’s Journal, both these teams will return the bulk of their rosters for the 2023 season.
Carlsbad performed very much like a No. 1 seed in the 5A bracket, with the type of pitching one must possess to win three games in a span of 48 hours. (Even Carlsbad alum Trevor Rogers was a winner on Saturday, for the Miami Marlins.)
It was a tough closing chapter to Sandia’s baseball season. The Matadors were hoping to snap a 42-year title drought. They have some excellent young talent and expect to create more chances like this.
“We can taste it,” Sandia coach Chris Eaton said. “We feel like we’re the best in Albuquerque, and now we need to try to be the best in the state. And there’s a team in front of us right now.”
Strikeout master Luis A. Patron of New Mexico Military Institute pitched his team to a state title in 3A, and both Logan (1A) and juggernaut Eunice (2A) also ended seasons with wins.
Carlsbad’s softball team was a proverbial wire-to-wire champion; the Cavegirls were stamped as the team to beat in February, and they were the last team standing in 5A, culminating in an emotional victory over Centennial.
From the Journal’s Geoff Grammer: Just prior to Saturday’s Class 5A softball championship at UNM Softball Field, every Carlsbad player wrote 4Brian on their visor in honor of coach Brian Santo, who was hospitalized with COVID for 70 days, and intubated for 36 before going home Dec. 31, not knowing if he’d be able to coach this season. The Cavegirls on Saturday won the program’s first state championship in 12 years.
Gallup’s rapid emergence as a major softball power, I have to confess, has been stunningly swift and perhaps just as surprising. The Bengals don’t have a tradition of challenging for state titles in this sport, but they have exploded onto the scene in the last couple of years, with a runner-up finish in 2021 and now a blue trophy after vanquishing Lovington on Saturday. A championship for Gallup that doesn’t involve basketball or cross country is rare. Kudos to them. And Robertson won yet another state championship this school year.
The most prolific team of the week?
With due respect to the girls golfers from Socorro, who have an argument, this is an easy question to answer. It’s the Los Alamos girls track and field program. The Hilltoppers scored a incomprehensible 165 points to win the 4A state meet on Saturday at UNM. That is an absurd – almost comically absurd – number of points in a meet of this caliber; 100 points would be considered a robust total at a state competition.
They were so great that Cleveland’s boys, winning state for the sixth straight time, were not the most dominant team at the facility on state weekend.
Aiden Krafft’s 60 at Twin Warriors Golf Club stands as the most memorable and historic moment of the week, and you had to be there to understand how incredibly close this round was to being in the 50s.
It was interesting to hear Krafft, a Cibola High senior headed for the University of Oregon, describe how little he seemed to be flustered following what was almost certainly the greatest high school round of golf ever played in New Mexico.
“You know, it’s weird,” he said about 30 minutes after he signed his card. “This year has made me not really have any nerves anymore. I lost them all. I just don’t get nervous anymore.”
He admitted he has no idea how that came to be. Krafft could probably make a small fortune on the lecture circuit if he ever were able to learn the reason, bottle it, and then teach it to pros and hackers alike around the globe.
I posed this question on Twitter last Tuesday, the day of Krafft’s 60, and I’ll repeat it here for a larger audience:
What was the best clutch individual postseason performance of the school year? Alex Waggoner of Santa Fe scoring all of his team’s goals in a 4-3 overtime win over Sandia in the boys 5A soccer state final? Jose Murillo’s 40-point/20-rebound effort in Highland’s victory over Del Norte in the 4A basketball final? Or Aiden Krafft’s 60? (Email me at email@example.com; I’d love some additional response on this topic.)
Socorro’s girls golfers won state for the 21st time, extending the program’s own state record.
The Warriors won by 111 shots. Meaning, if every one of the counting scores on both days of the state tournament had 13 strokes added to them, Socorro STILL would have won state by half a dozen shots.
It was a special and truly compelling week.