Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal
St. Pius X has been a fairly persistent baseball thorn in the side of the Grants Pirates.
But not Friday.
In an early first-place showdown in District 5-4A, visiting Grants, which hadn’t beaten the Sartans in over six years, won its biggest game yet of the 2023 season, a tense 10-9 decision over St. Pius, the top-ranked team in Class 4A.
“We don’t beat Pius very often, so … it’s a good win for us,” Pirates coach Mike Furbee said. “This tells our guys that they’re capable of beating anyone in 4A on any given day.”
Grants had lost nine straight to St. Pius, a streak that began in April 2017.
This latest chapter was fun, sloppy, wild and exciting as fourth-ranked Grants (13-5, 2-0 in 5-4A) came back from three runs down in the final three innings against the Sartans (12-3, 1-1).
“This win means a lot,” said Pirate sophomore Dominick Gonzales, who homered and drove in four runs and earned a save in relief of freshman starter Steve Barela. “It’s our first big district matchup, and it was a good game on our part.”
Both teams threw away runs throughout. St. Pius, for example, scored five unearned runs to take a 6-4 lead on the Pirates in the top of the second inning.
On the other side, the Sartans’ effort on the mound was less than pinpoint, as four pitchers combined to walk 11 Grants batters – three of them when the bases were loaded.
Grants had an early 4-1 lead; Izeyah Manzanares’ three-run double keyed a four-run second inning.
St. Pius scored five in the bottom half for a 6-4 lead. This sequence included a monster, towering two-run homer down the right field line by UNM signee Gene Trujillo, whose moon ball reached the parking lot well beyond the fence.
The Sartans led 8-5 after two runs in the fourth.
Grants pulled even with three in the fifth, including a game-tying two-RBI double by Gonzales. The Pirates inched in front 9-8 in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk, and Gonzales homered to center off the batting eye for a 10-8 lead in the seventh.
That swing proved important when Malachi Peña of St. Pius took Gonzales deep in the bottom of the seventh for a solo shot.
“For us to battle and not fall down and not fold against Pius, that’s good,” Furbee said. “It shows our mentality and where we’re at as a team.”