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Prep Baseball: Doubleheader Sweep Gives La Cueva 70 Straight Victories

By Ken Sickenger
Journal Staff Writer
    Record territory!
    La Cueva's baseball team pitched, fielded and generally bashed its way into the national record books Saturday, winning consecutive game numbers 69 and 70.
    By sweeping visiting Highland 15-1 and 11-0 in a doubleheader, the Bears went where no prep baseball team had gone before. They extended a winning streak that dates to 2002 and eclipsed a record that dated to 1966, when Archbishop Molloy High of Briarwood, N.Y., completed a 68-game run.
    The setting could hardly have been more perfect.
    Roughly 1,000 fans encircled La Cueva's baseball diamond on a crystal-clear morning. Fans in lawn chairs lined the track outside the right-field fence, and a group of firefighters watched from atop a fire truck parked in left field.
    And when La Cueva catcher Zach Arnett threw out Highland's Matt Flores on a stolen-base attempt for the final out of the opener, the Bears celebrated to a long, loud ovation.
    "Having so many people here was awesome," said pitcher Jason Davidson, who tossed a two-hitter and struck out seven in the opener. "It felt good to know people were supporting us, and I'm really glad we got the job done."
    After the game, New Mexico Activities Association executive director Gary Tripp presented the Bears with a sign commemorating the record. La Cueva's coaches also received plaques and watches from the National High School Federation.
    "I didn't know they'd planned any of this," said Bears coach Stan McKeever, who also received congratulations from a group of former LCHS players who turned out. "It's a great feeling, but I'm happiest for the kids. They've accomplished something very special."
    La Cueva's current players took some time to enjoy consecutive win No. 69, signing baseballs and posing for pictures. But it didn't take them long to grab lunch and get back to the business of playing the day's second game.
    "I think the record will sink in more down the road," said senior Sam Kunzman, who was 4-for-4 and drove in four runs in the doubleheader. "We don't think about it that much when we're on the field. We just have a lot of pride and always want to win. It does feel really good to be part of this, though."
    La Cueva (12-0, 2-0 in District 2-5A) had been involved in several tight games recently, and Saturday's opener started like it might be another. The game was scoreless through the top of the third inning, with starting pitchers Davidson and Marcus Urias of Highland setting the pace.
    But Scott Gracey drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the third, then moved to second when J.J. Muse's pop fly to left was misplayed for an error. Arnett followed with a two-run triple that touched off a four-run rally.
    Highland (6-8, 0-2) trimmed it to 4-1 when Levi Brockhoft hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth. But the wheels came off for the Hornets in the bottom half, when the Bears scored 11 runs on eight hits and five walks.
    Arnett and Davidson were 2-for-3 in the game, combining for six RBI.
    "All that offense made me a lot more relaxed on the mound," Davidson said. "Any pitcher would love that."
    The Bears got another stout pitching performance in game two as Ben Miltenberger and Andrew Pohl combined on a four-hitter. La Cueva's offense provided early support, banging out three first-inning runs. Seth Johnson led off the game with a long home run, and Nathan Solow chipped in a two-run double.
    Hornets reliever Art Davenport quieted the Bears for the next three innings, and the score was just 4-0 until the bottom of the fifth. But Gracey homered to start a four-run La Cueva rally, and Stephen Cotton secured consecutive win No. 70 with a three-run blast in the sixth.