RIO RANCHO – A long night got even longer for the Capitan baseball team, May 10, as the Tigers had to watch Santa Rosa mount a comeback, force an extra inning, and almost win the game in the Class 3A State tournament.
After building up a 7-0 lead, Capitan let it slip away via errors. The Lions were able to tie it at 8-all, but Capitan’s Clay Bob Stearns scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded to give Capitan a 9-8 lead in the top of the eighth.
Things finally ended in the bottom of the frame when Price Bowen – the Tigers’ starting pitcher but now behind the plate – caught up to a wild pitch from reliever Brontson Leach and gunned down Chris Correa at third to end the game.
“After coach moved me to catcher, and Brontson pitched so well through that, I knew the game would be on our side,” Bowen said. “I knew were going to to perform, and as soon as I let go of that ball, I just knew that was the way it was going to end.”
the Tigers (12-9) had scored all those runs thanks to hitting – seven base hits through three innings to chase starter Joaquin Sanchez from the mound – the Lions (18-7) showed why they were the No. 2 team in the state.
Santa Rosa started its comeback with a bang – well, two of them, really – on back-to-back triples by Eric Lopez and Sanchez in the fourth inning to make it 7-2.
Eventually, the Lions scored six more runs in the next three innings, finally tying it in the bottom of the seventh on a base hit by Christian Chavez.
It’s very similar to what happened when these two teams last faced each other in the NMMI Sertoma Classic at the beginning of the season.
“I’m not going to say it didn’t cross my mind,” Bowen said of that loss. “Everybody kind of got a little down, but like a team does, we stepped back up, hit the ball and got things rolling again.”
It wasn’t just Lions hits that allowed the comeback, it was just as much Capitan errors.
“The errors again. We’ve talked about it before,” said Capitan coach James Weems. “I hate to bring it up, but that scoreboard doesn’t look that way without all those errors on there.”
Santa Rosa had the winning run at second, but Joaquin Romo struck out and the fans were “rewarded” with free baseball.
That woke Capitan up, as they loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the eighth, and Stearns scored the go-ahead run.
That was all the runs Capitan needed.
Leach got the outs when needed, Bowen’s arm still came in handy to get the final out, and the Tigers moved on to face Estancia today at 7 p.m. in the State semifinals.
“I feel amazing, our team is a family, just like we were in football,” said Price, referring to Capitan’s State title in December. “We stick together, we have faith in each other, and I’m completely confident we’re going to do great.”
“The big story for us is errors. We hit the ball well and are disciplined at the plate,” Weems said. “We run the bags well, we just aren’t getting it done defensively. We just have to drop those errors.”