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Triple triumph for Texico

Wolverines pull off three-peat in Class 3A baseball

 

Eric Murray

Texico players come to claim the Class 3A state baseball championship trophy Friday at Isotopes Park after defeating Estancia 5-0. The Wolverines, who went 27-2, took their third-straight title and fourth in school history.

ALBUQUERQUE — Winning championships never gets hum-drum, never gets blasé.

So although the Texico baseball team's 5-0 victory over Estancia in Friday's Class 3A championship game at Isotopes Park earned the Wolverines their third state title in a row, they appreciated it every bit as much as the previous two.

"I think they're all special," Texico coach Ty Thatcher said. "It's a different group of kids every year, plus or minus a few kids. Everybody contributes, and in this particular season, there were some struggles early and little things that tried to get in the way. And the kids showed their true colors and came out on top."

"It never gets old," junior pitcher Dalton Thatcher and senior first baseman Nathan Phipps said separately.

Thatcher, after tossing a complete-game, five-hit shutout, added, "It's awesome winning a state title with my friends that have been there with me from Day One."

Phipps, who punctuated a three-run first with a towering home run to left-center, added, "Knowing the fact that all your hard work paid off, it never gets old."

"I'm truly blessed to have these guys as my teammates," Texico senior catcher Brock Thompson said. "And to win three state titles in a row is a true blessing."

The Wolverines who also played basketball over the winter knew how hard that last state-championship step is. The hardwood Wolverines went into their March 10 state title game against Pecos at 29-0 and came out of it 29-1, right down the block at The Pit.

"It was in the back of our minds," said Dalton Thatcher, the basketball team's point guard. "We didn't come up with the state championship in basketball. But it's a whole different game."

More specifically to baseball, the Wolves had already seen Estancia in an April 20 home doubleheader, and in the twin bill opener had endured their only loss to a New Mexico team, a 4-1 setback against pitcher Zach Abeita, also the starter for Friday's title game.

Texico, though a No. 1 seed, was designated as the visiting team via coin flip, and batted first to start to the game. Abeita had some gas early, beginning the first inning with a strikeout before the Wolverine bats heated up. Hitting second in the order, Dalton Thatcher sent a 2-2 offering from Abeita into deep left-center for a double. From the 3-hole, Cole Rohrbach tripled to deep left-center, right around the same spot where Thatcher's wallop had landed. Thatcher scored as Rohrbach was headed for third base, and when the throw there sailed past the base, Rohrbach hurried home to make it a 2-0 game.

Phipps, batting clean-up, followed with a solo shot, also to deep left-center. The ball hit just below the stadium scoreboard, a no-doubter from beginning to end.

"Curveball, hanging curveball," Phipps said of the pitch from Abeita. "It's a deep park, but I was pretty sure it was going to be (gone)."

Phipps got hold of another one in the fourth inning, clouting it to deep, deep left. But Estancia left fielder Carlos Parra stayed with it and made the catch at the wall.

Texico's offense was fairly quiet after that busy first inning. The Wolverines did tack on an RBI triple from Brayden Wines in the fifth inning and a Dalton Thatcher sacrifice fly in the seventh, but the crux of the game was that opening inning.

"When we beat them down there, it was the reverse," Estancia coach Hamilton Doyle said. "We had a good first inning and we held them off, and this time it was reversed. They had that good first inning and held us off. That's how it goes when you've got two heavyweight teams."

Helping out in the 'held off' department was Dalton Thatcher's day on the mound. Aside from scattering the five Estancia hits, he struck out six. Early on, he was having an Andy Pettitte kind of day, inducing a lot of ground outs and fly outs without being too overpowering. But Thatcher's stuff seemed to get even better as the game wore on; all six of those strikeouts occurred in the fourth inning or later.

"He was dialed in," Coach Thatcher said. "He had command, he went through all three of his pitches. He mixed up the two-seam, four-seam (fastballs), which is what he does, and got a lot of comebackers. And any time you're getting comebackers you know that your stuff's on. ... It's a great moment as a dad to get to see your son perform."

"I faced them earlier this season and kinda knew their strengths and weaknesses," Dalton Thatcher said. "So I pitched it where I thought they couldn't hit it."

The game ended on an impressive 5-3 double play, as Rohrbach scooped up a Joseph Newsom grounder, ran over and tagged third base for a force out, then threw to Phipps at first base, narrowly getting Newsom.

Eric Murray

Texico players mob each other at the pitcher's mound after finishing off Estancia 5-0 in the Class 3A state championship at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.

For Estancia, it was an impressive season indeed. A 25-3 state finalist should be ashamed of nothing.

"We know now what it takes," Doyle said. "(Texico) is who you have to compare yourself to. That's who you have to beat."

For the Wolverines, a 27-2 season and a state championship three-peat can certainly be considered a memorable spring. This title ended with the help of a four-wheeled friend.

"It's a special moment to end the year on a win and complete a task," Coach Thatcher said. "The kids were working toward it. I could tell that they were extremely focused when we left the (hotel) room this morning and got into the bus, the old bus that we drive around. The guys won with the old yellow dog which we've been traveling in for a while. It was a very focused baseball game; they came and played at a very high level today. I'm proud of the way they executed offensively, and obviously defensively, they were so good."

 

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