ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Carlsbad Senior Is Star On Mound, at Plate
RIO RANCHO — The Sal Puentes Invitational painted a rather vivid pictorial on how the transition from aluminum bats to wood bats is having an impact on New Mexico prep baseball.
Take the host team in this tournament, Rio Rancho.
Over the final 21 innings, going back to Thursday morning’s first round, the Rams surrendered a grand total of one run.
And they lost the tournament.
For that, Rio Rancho can thank Jered Meek.
The Carlsbad senior — ambidextrous, as it were, within the confines of a baseball diamond — did pretty much all the heavy lifting himself on a spectacular Saturday. He pitched a complete-game one-hitter and also belted a solo home run in the sixth inning as the Cavemen (12-1) edged the Rams 1-0 in the Puentes Invite title game.
“You don’t run across players like him all the time,” first-year Carlsbad coach Cody May said. “He has all the tools to play at the next level.”
With Albuquerque Academy shortstop Alex Bregman on the shelf for the rest of the season after breaking a knuckle on his throwing hand earlier this month, a case can certainly be made that Carlsbad’s Meek — who has already signed with the University of New Mexico — is the most complete, most dangerous individual weapon left in the state’s prep ranks.
The hard-throwing right-hander throttled a young Rio Rancho lineup — the Rams don’t start a single senior — and allowed just a chop single to left in the fifth by Brandon Garcia.
“I like being on the bump,” said the 5-foot-10 Meek, who was Carlsbad’s closer last year and is new to the starting rotation. “I just try to throw strikes and let my defense work. I felt really good today.”
Meek (3-1) struck out eight and walked two. He has a fastball in the upper 80s and a curveball with considerable back-end snap. Both were utilized as out pitches.
“He was hard to get a hold of,” Garcia said. “We haven’t seen anything that speed yet.”
Of Rio Rancho’s four base runners, Garcia was the only one who got as far as second base.
“He was lights out,” Rio Rancho coach Ron Murphy said. “That’s one of the best pitchers in the state. He’s one of the top two or three, easily.”
Meek on Saturday perfectly defined the “helping yourself” rule, as well.
In the top of the sixth, Meek, who bats left-handed, drove a two-out fastball from Rio Rancho starter Brenden Wanchek over the wall in left-center for the game’s run.
“He had been working the whole team away, but when we came up in the fifth inning, we decided to crowd the plate a little bit,” Meek said. “And he left one up a little bit (to me).”
Meek’s blast was the lone blemish on the scoreboard Saturday for Rio Rancho (11-4), which had stellar pitching throughout the tournament. After yielding three runs in the first inning of Thursday’s opener to Santa Fe, the Rams were almost unhittable.
They blanked Santa Fe over the final six Thursday, beat Artesia 1-0 in eight innings Friday, and gave up just the one run to Meek on Saturday.
Meek was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“He’s special,” May said.
— This article appeared on page D7 of the Albuquerque Journal