Pupfish visitors at Aquarium but still get victory
Chris Peacock bunts against Taos starter Elliot VanCoaver. (Photo by Josh Szwaczkowski)
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
ALAMOGORDO — Taos took only its second loss as the home team this year, falling 10-8 to White Sands in the Aquarium Saturday. Because the Blizzard only have 14 home games, they’ll play a number of road games as the home team, and despite the loss, Taos manager Matt Leahy wasn’t upset.
‘We did a great job,” he said. “We did a great job. We pitched well. We hit well. We ran well. At the end of the day we put a lot of pressure on a lot of their players. We did what we wanted to do. Ultimately, the win wasn’t there, but I think we set ourselves up for a pretty good series.”
For Pupfish player/manager Ernie Munoz, it was “Another win. Another step in the right direction. The pitchers came out and threw strikes out of the bullpen. We hit the ball again, like we have been. I think we’re probably averaging 15 hits in the last 10 games. Played solid defense. Just had a couple of little errors that were just probably due to the field, actually.”
The Blizzard took the early lead, going up 2-0 in the first when Ryan Sonberg was hit, Blair Springfield doubled and Calvin Culver singled both in.
The ’Fish tied the game in the second on a Mike Mendoza single and the first of two home runs by George Ban, then took a 5-2 lead in the third. Munoz and Mendoza each singled then Ban hit his second dinger of the night, getting three more RBI. White Sands stretched the lead to 7-2 in the fourth when Jerry Gonzales homered, then Christian Ramirez reached on an error and came home on a Collins single, passed ball and another Ban RBI, this time on a sac fly.
“He had about 12 RBIs,” Munoz laughed about his right fielder.
The Pupfish got another two runs in the fifth on singles by Flores, Gonzales, Ramirez and a put out. But Taos wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
They made it 9-4 in the bottom of the stanza when John Apostolo walked and came in on a Kyle Richardson triple. Richardson then scored on a triple. The Blizzard pulled within one on a big sixth inning.
Culver homered, then Will Arnold and Brennan May both singled and came in on a 2-RBI double by Louis Gonzales. With Chad Hadzinsky in for Peacock on the mound, Richardson doubled to score Gonzales and the game was much closer.
That left it up to the relievers, and only Taos’ Sean Gregory allowed any runs, giving up two-out singles to Gonzales and Ramirez and an RBI single to Munoz. Nick Alexander, Justin Mauldin and Ernesto Zaragaza shut the Blizzard down the rest of the way.
“That’s what we need coming out of the bullpen,” Munoz said. “We just ask that they throw strikes and give us a chance and they’re starting to do that. So everything is falling into place.”
Richard Ruff came in in the eighth to keep it close for Taos.
“He’s our project,” Leahy said. “He did very well for us. Without his effort, we wouldn’t have been in a situation to possibly come back there. Ultimately, if there were a game ball, it would have gone to Ruff.”
Starter Elliot VanCoaver took the loss with seven runs in 3.2 innings, with Steve Sanguliano giving up another two.
The game was the Blizzard’s first to southern New Mexico — they’ve played in Alpine — and if they don’t melt, Leahy doesn’t mind the southern hospitality.
“It’s too hot,” he laughed. “It’s good.It’s a good setup. They’ve got a good team over here, but at the end of the day I’ll put our team against any team in the world. We’ve got the right guys. It’s just a matter of putting them in the right situations. And today we did that. Tomorrow’s another day. We’ll come back and we’ll beat them up again.”
The entire series will be played with Taos the home team, and Munoz said it’s not too different.
“I don’t think it changed much. It was just a little awkward, wearing grey pants. But it was OK. We changed. We’ve been wearing those white pants for months. It was exciting to me,” he said.
And the Pupfish will just keep on keeping on, even against the northern squads.
“As long as we play our game the way we can, I’m not worried about it,” he said. “We’re clearly not going to look past anybody, but we’re just going to come out and play our game.”
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