RUIDOSO – It’s tempting to say Ruidoso’s baseball team has lost too much talent after last season’s 14-11-1 campaign.
There were six seniors on last year’s squad – Alex Bates, Brendan Ingle, Kyler Woodul, Cisco Mayville, Brooks Jarrell and Saul Marmalejo, with Bates, Woodul and Mayville earning spots on the North-South All-Star team.
Their graduation is a big loss, but the Warriors also lost coach Gilbert Alvarado, who returned to his Alma Mater to help coach and teach at Goddard High School.
Taking on the Warrior hard-ball program now is Billy Page, longtime basketball coach at RHS.
Page has coached baseball at Ruidoso High before and helped give it some legitimacy, but it was Alvarado who pretty much put the Warriors on the map with two championship appearances.
Page isn’t worried about following that kind of success.
“Any time you follow a coach like Alvarado and the success he had, there will be pressure,” Page said. “But in my last year of coaching here we were 19-8, and the last two out of three years we made the playoffs and did fairly well. But coach Alvarado took that, ran with it and changed the dynamics of Ruidoso baseball.
“We’re no longer just another team people want to play and get a win,” he added. “We’ve become the team people try to avoid.”
Ruidoso actually returns a number of good players from last year’s varsity squad, including seniors Isaiah Otero, Ian McClure, Grady Woodul, Rylan Tercero, Robert Roller and Josh Duncan.
Woodul will be a valuable addition to first base to replace Jarrell, while Tercero and Otero will all be relied on to shore up the outfield in Mayville’s absence, as will junior Gabriel Dorame.
Tercero, Otero, Woodul and Duncan will also be relied on for pitching duties after Bates’ departure.
There’s also Jared Candelria, who Page will rely on to play at every position, wherever he’s needed.
“Grady is one of those kids that I really need to lead, and Otero roaming center field,” Page said.
One athlete who should make a big difference pitching is junior Chris Shalley, who has spent several years pitching both varsity and on elite traveling teams.
One elite player who won’t be back with the Warriors this year is junior Mason Taylor, who transferred to Capitan.
“He had his reasons for leaving, and I wish him good luck,” Page said of Taylor’s move. “Those are big shoes to fill, at pitcher and shortstop.
“Our biggest thing will be the pitching. We’ll see some new arms out there, kids that have very little experience on the mound,” Page said. “But I’m excited for them. We’ve had good workouts with 24 kids, that’s not a bad number.”
Beyond that, it’s a whole lot of players from last year’s junior varsity squad that will have to fill in. That’s not a bad thing, as there is loads of talent coming up from middle school and youth programs.
“There’s some freshmen that could break into the varsity roster, like Xavier Otero,” Page said. “He’s got good glove, great range. He’s young, so his arm is not as strong, but he’s one that could make a difference.
“There’s also a ton of eighth graders,” he added. “They make up most of the JV, so we’ll be really young and inexperienced on the field, but our JV had a winning season last year.”
All that talent will be needed to compete against a District 4-4A schedule that’s among the most brutal in the state.
That includes defending State champion Portales, as well as the team they beat for that championship, Hope Christian.
New Mexico Military Institute is also in there – losers to Hope in the State quarterfinals last year – and a Moriarty squad that was able to beat Hope, NMMI and Sandia Prep.
“We just have to get over who’s in our district and just compete,” Page said. “We can’t worry about it. We just have to go one pitch and one at-bat at a time.
“Some things will stay the same, some things will change,” he added. “I like to be more aggressive at the plate than he was, but it depends on each player.