The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Clash of baseball titans: Texico vs. Estancia

 

April 20, 2018



TEXICO — File it under "h," maybe under "c." But file it somewhere under the "how cool is that" file.

The answer is "pretty cool" whenever a team ranked No. 1 in the state plays one ranked No. 2 in the regular season.

It will happen today — weather permitting — at Texico Field, when the top-ranked Wolverines baseball team hosts second-ranked Estancia in a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

Only the possibility of lightning can make this matchup more electric.

When the prep baseball polls were released Tuesday through New Mexico Overtime Sports Center, Texico sat atop the 3A rankings with 148 points, including 13 first-place votes. Estancia was in second place with 134 points and two first-place votes. No other 3A team received a first-place nod.

No. 1 meets No. 2. Talk about a clash of the titans.

“We’ve got to show up to play, just like any other game,” Texico senior first baseman Nathan Phipps said after supplying a two-run homer and three RBIs overall in Tuesday’s five-inning, 12-2 home win over Portales. “The adjustment we’ve got to make from this game is, we’ve got to be mentally tougher, come out a little bit sharper.”

Minutes after the Portales game was final, Phipps and the Wolverines were already back at work — not yet practicing for Estancia, but keeping Texico Field maintained. Phipps was wielding a big rake as he spoke, working it with the same effectiveness as the bat he had used on his two-run shot over the left-field fence. Texico head coach Ty Thatcher was using the hose, doing his part to keep the field in shape.

Thatcher had just watched senior pitcher Ben Crist stay undefeated by working the whole five innings and striking out 11 against Portales. The only downside — Crist is likely unavailable for today’s twinbill.

“I kind of wish we would’ve kept Crist in position to pitch a little bit on (Friday), but we’ve got some other arms that I’m curious to see. I’m a believer that things happen for a reason, and maybe we need not let (Estancia) see Ben this early in the year, and see if we can get some wins off that team without some of our better arms.”

Texico is a defending 3A state champion, capping off last year with a 20-3 win over Capitan in the title game at Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park on May 12.

The Wolverines didn’t clash with Estancia in state-tournament play last spring, as the latter was beaten by Capitan 3-0 in the semifinals, a day before the championship game.

Today’s showdown could perhaps preview a state-playoff matchup not far down the road, so evaluating the Bears will be among the tasks.

“Estancia’s got a handful of really good players,” Thatcher said. (Junior pitcher/shortstop Drayton) Oberg, one of their guys, is a good player. And it’ll be interesting to see how he’s developed and where he’s at from last year. He didn’t get to pitch in the state tournament last year. I hope we get to see him (today); I’d like to see him. Two years ago he pitched against us.”

If the teams don’t meet again next month, today’s games will at least serve as a barometer as to where each team is at this stage of the season. Though the Wolverines improved to 16-1 with Tuesday’s victory, Thatcher sees more work needing to be done.

“I feel like our footwork,” he said. “We played a little bit slow it seemed in the early part of that (Portales) baseball game. I think we’re just starting to kind of come together defensively. We know how to play the game, it’s just getting everything to come together defensively and play catch. It’s a pretty simple game. The kids know the game, so it’s about not yet coming together defensively, I think.

“We’ve hit the ball pretty well. I think that we’ve got some guys that are really trying to hit the home run at times instead of just coming up and putting the barrel on the baseball and finding gaps.”

Though it may be a work in progress, Texico is a solid team right now, and is hosting another one today.

“So,” Thatcher said, “it should be interesting.”

 

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