By Peter Stein
Staff writer 

Texico baseball on the go


Last updated 5/14/2019 at 4:12pm

CLOVIS — It’s a hectic week for Texico’s baseball team.

Monday, there were elementary school players at the Wolverines’ practice, followed by a live intersquad game and then the team dinner at a local restaurant.

Tuesday was awards night. Wednesday, the Wolverines head up to the Albuquerque area to prepare for the quarterfinal round of their state 2A baseball tournament. They’ll be working out at Rio Rancho on Wednesday, stretching and hitting at 9 a.m. Thursday.

And then Thursday at noon, the top-seeded Wolverines (17-5) play ninth-seeded Capitan (11-10) in a quarterfinal at Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School.

A win for the Wolverines would send them into Friday’s 4 p.m. semifinal at Rio Rancho High School against the winner between fourth-seeded Rehoboth Christian and fifth-seeded Mora, who play their Thursday quarterfinal at Eldorado High, after the Capitan-Texico game.

The 2A championship game is 9 a.m. Saturday at the University of New Mexico’s Santa Ana Star Field. If the Wolverines get there, they’d be playing for their fourth consecutive state championship. They won the past three titles in 3A before being realigned into 2A last offseason.

Still, there’s a state title at stake and it would indeed be four straight if the Wolverines win it.

“That’s the goal,” Texico senior Dalton Thatcher said at Monday’s dinner. “After the first one I wanted the second one. After the second one I wanted the third. After the third I wanted the fourth.”

But that goal can’t be reached until the end of the week. For now, Texico is in the state’s elite eight — earning a spot with last Wednesday’s 26-0 first-round win over 16th-seeded Navajo Pine — and the Wolverines will try to go from there.

It’s an exciting part of the season, at least for the players.

“This time of year, baseball teams are to that point where it’s win or go home. So it’s really a stressful situation in the coaches’ eyes,” Texico head coach Ty Thatcher said at Monday’s dinner. “But the kids, you can see the excitement in their eyes. ... That’s what’s exciting as a coach, to see the kids and the excitement in their eyes.”

“Oh, it’s going to be a blast,” Dalton Thatcher said. “I’ve got one more chance to play with this group of guys. Another chance to make some history. ... I can’t wait.”

“Pretty exciting, I’m not going to lie,” Texico senior Robin Winton said at Monday’s dinner. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, though. We’ve got to win these upcoming games because that’s our goal — to win the blue trophy.”

First up, Capitan, a team that Texico beat 15-0 on March 30 in the championship game of New Mexico Military Institute’s Colt Classic. That was just one of many head-to-head battles in a rivalry that has played out in previous state tournaments.

“Coach (James) Weems and I have matched up numerous times,” Ty Thatcher said of his Capitan counterpart. “He’s a formidable opponent. He’ll have those kids ready to play, but our guys will be ready. We’ve played them off and on throughout the past five years. I know their style. Their lefthander (senior Brandon Usrey) is a big lanky first baseman (5-10, 145 pounds) who throws the ball well. He’s not unhittable. We’ll find a way to put some hits on the board.”

Coach Thatcher announced at Monday’s dinner that Dalton Thatcher will start Thursday’s game against Usrey. If Texico gets past Capitan, Wolverines junior hurler Luke Phipps gets the start in Friday’s semifinal.

The elder Thatcher said he thinks Griego would be the first to come on in relief Thursday, if necessary. Griego already has a track record against Capitan.

“Seth pitched the one time we met up this year,” Coach Thatcher said, “a quality game against them in the championship game of the NMMI tournament. A two-hitter, I believe.”

The Wolverines, though, aren’t taking their dominant effort against Capitan in March to mean they’ll automatically have another one Thursday.

“We’ve got to win three games,” Dalton Thatcher said. “They’re a well-coached team. ... You’ve got to play every game as hard as you can anyway. You’ve just got to enjoy it, have fun.”

“Although we did win 15-0, that was at the beginning of the season,” Winton said. “We have to keep our heads on our shoulders and play them like we know how to play.”

If Texico wins Thursday, one of Friday’s potential opponents is not quite as familiar to the Wolverines as Capitan.

“I have no idea what Rehoboth Christian is like,” Ty Thatcher said. “They have a good record (16-3) ... but we have no idea what they’re like.”

Texico did play Mora this season at home and won 10-0. Mora has won four of five since then and heads into Thursday’s game with Rehoboth Christian at 13-4.

“It’s hard to tell which of those two is the better team, but it’ll be a good matchup,” Ty Thatcher said. “Hopefully, we’ll get the opportunity to play the winner of that game.”

Lurking on Saturday, could be either second-seeded Eunice (18-6) or third-seeded Estancia (19-4) — the team Texico defeated to win last year’s 3A title. The Wolverines split with each this season.

“Eunice is a quality team on the other side of the bracket,” Ty Thatcher said. “Estancia is a team that has some seniors who play well for them.”

Whomever the Wolverines play, going Thursday, Friday and Saturday is a bang-bang-bang format. Three games in three days.

“We have a routine that’s worked for us as far as what we do to prepare for every round,” Ty Thatcher said. “We try to keep it simple for the guys, not try to do anything too fancy.”

“As long as we stay rested and hydrated,” Winton said, “we should play to the best of our abilities.”

It won’t be an easy road for the Wolverines, but they hope a fourth consecutive state title is at the end of it.

“Having the opportunity is definitely in the backs of our minds,” Ty Thatcher said, “but most importantly, enjoying the moment.”

“It’d be a huge moment, that’s for sure,” Winton said. “I’ve been with the team since eighth grade. That’d be an awesome way to finish my senior year, kind of like the cherry on top.”

“They’re all special,” Dalton Thatcher said, “but yes, going out on top would be a big plus.”


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