By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
HOUSTON — For four innings Saturday morning at , it was a pitcher’s duel between the Las Cruces Vaqueros (1-2) and Houston Apollos (3-0), with the only run coming off a fourth-pitch Travis Fuquay double, sacrifice fly by Cody Langham and two-strike RBI single by Carl Johnson in the top of the first.
That put the Vaqueros up 1-0, and through the bottom of the fourth neither starting pitcher — Brett Kinle for Houston and Edison Alvarez for the Apollos — allowed more than two runners to reach base in an inning. In fact, except for the bottom of the fourth, when Alvarado gave up three singles but an unusual shortstop to first double play — the runner on first was doubled off after a line drive — no more than one runner reached base.
But in the fifth and sixth, the wheels fell off for Las Cruces, giving the Apollos a 4-3 victory.
“I’ll read the stats off that I was just reading to my guys,” said Vaqueros coach Casey Dill. “The first four innings, our pitcher walked one guy. We made zero errors and we led 3-0 after the fourth. The last two innings, our pitchers walked two guys, hit a guy and made five errors. So we gave them 10 free base runners and honestly, we’re lucky that they only got four runners out of those 10 free base runners. We played like a bad JV high school baseball team for two innings, and kicked the s*** out of ourselves. We beat ourselves. No question.”
Las Cruces went up 3-0 in the top of the fifth when Jacob Alastra singled and stole second with one out off reliever Cameron Powers. After a second out, Fuquay singled to left, which sent Alastra to third. But Apollo left fielder Jordan Segura bobble the ball not once, but twice, and by the time he got the ball to the plate, both runners had scored.
But in the bottom of the fifth, Vaquero reliever Thomas Nelson gave up a single to Powers then Matt Hunt reached second on an error by the Las Cruces third baseman. Powers scored on a ground out, then, with two outs on the board, Nelson walked two and made a throwing error that scored Hunt. The Vaqueros made a good play at second to catch Matt Leahy trying to steal, but the margin was down to 3-1.
Then, after Powers set the Vaqueros down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Nelson walked the first batter he faced — Andrew Azzopardi — in the bottom of the sixth and was replaced by Brandon Brown. But Azzopardi reached third on an error by catcher Langhan, Brown walked Jordan Segura and sent him to second on a passed ball.
Ruben Rijkhof reached on a strikeout and passed ball, then an error by shortstop Stone scored both Azzopardi and Stone, giving Houston the lead. Then, despite two Vaquero walks, Powers kept Las CRuces scoreless for the victory.
“Another one run game,” said Apollos coach Andrew Dunn. “We’re out hit (7-5). Possibly out pitched. Another win. The one inning of errors. We knew we’d break through and another win. Powers did it with the bat and pitching and Brett pitched well, too. We just can’t hit. Right now we’re not hitting, but we’re winning. I guess that’s the Apollo way.”
And, at least through the first three games of the Pecos Spring League, errors have been the Vaquero downfall.
“It’s hard to really tell after three games, because at times we looked really great, and at times we can’t do anything right,” Dill said. “The inconsistency is very frustrating because know you never know what to expect. And when you don’t know what to expect out of your guys, that makes it very hard to manage a game. It really does. It makes my job a little harder.”
But, as the manager pointed out after the game, he’s not the one looking to show what he can do.
“It’s for them to earn summer jobs,” he said. “I already have a job. My job’s not going anywhere. At the end of the day, my win and loss record in this thing really doesn’t matter. This is for them. This is their scout league. They go out there and do that, it’s going to be hard for anyone to want to pick them up. This is 100 percent on them, and I hope they put it on themselves to do whatever they’ve got to do coming out next time. Because we have a bunch of good guys. They are good ball players. They didn’t show up for two innings, but they should expect a lot more out of themselves.”
Las CRuces will see if they can retire the error bug Monday against the Sea Lions — the team they beat in the league’s opening game — while the Apollos will work on their hitting before facing a much-improved Garden of Gears squad.