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A red trophy for Capitan

By Todd Fuqua

Photo by Todd Fuqua Capitan's Julian Beuchter, far right, is greeted by his teammates, May 12, before the start of the Class 3A State tournament at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.

ALBUQUERQUE – Texico came into this year’s Class 3A State baseball playoffs ranked No. 1 for a reason.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Capitan’s John Rogers got the start on the mound for his team in the Class 3A State championship game against Texico, May 12, at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.

That reason was clear to everyone watching at Isotopes Park, May 12, during the Class 3A State championship, as they took a 20-3 victory over Capitan.

The game marked Capitan’s first trip to the State title game since 2013, so none of the kids on the field were part of the program during the Tigers’ glory years of 2011-13, when they won two straight titles and were in the championship three years in a row.

They’ve got a taste of it now, and coach James Weems expects them to be back on this stage next season.

“We’re young, Texico’s young, Eunice, Dexter,” Weems said. “Everyone in our district is young, and we’re looking forward to it. It’s competition that you want, and we’ve got to get some pitching and see what we can do next year. We’ll be back.”

Photo by Todd Fuqua Capitan shortstop Price Bowen, center, attempts a tag on Texico’s Brayden Wines, May 12, during the Class 3A State championship at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque. Backing up on the play is Tiger second baseman Julian Buechter.

Capitan (13-10) has only three seniors – Brontson Leach, Christian Newell and Jacob Anderson – so Weems’ sentiments are well-founded.

Of course, the Wolverines (25-3) has just one senior in Michael Hill. In other words, this Capitan-Texico matchup might have been a sight fans are going to have to get used to in the next few years.

Friday’s championship was a far cry from the last time these two teams played in the semifinals of the NMMI Sertoma Classic at the beginning of the season. Texico won that one as well, but it was 7-3.

The difference between then and now, according to Weems, was pitching.

“The pitch count this year has hurt everybody, especially small schools,” Weems said, referring to a new NMAA rule that limits how many pitches an athlete can throw, and codifies how long they must wait to pitch again. “Us losing Brendan (Usrey), he was one of our top pitchers, and we’re just hamstrung with it. We had to go with what we have.”

Without Bowen, Leach or Usrey able to pitch, that left John Rogers – a decent pitcher, to be sure – and Newell.

The pair couldn’t find the plate much of the time, combining for nine walks and hitting three Texico Batters.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Capitan’s Caleb Hightower, left, heads for first as teammate Price Bowen rounds third, May 12, during their team’s Class 3A State championship game against Texico at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.

What’s more, the Wolverines came up with 14 hits.

True, errors didn’t help matters for the Tigers, but Texico actually had more miscues, booting the ball six times, including three in the first inning.

So, while Texico eventually ran away with the game, things weren’t certain after two innings, as the Wolverines led by just four runs, 6-2.

Texico really did its damage in the third inning, plating seven runners.

“The errors were untimely, and they (Texico) took advantage of it,” Weems said. “And we didn’t hit the ball. When you don’t hit, it’s hard to win games.

“The kids did a great job getting here, and we’re not going to hang our heads at all,” he added. “It’s a tough loss, but we were here to lose it.”

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