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

Dora falls in 1A finale


May 22, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE — It’s fair to say Dora’s baseball team held serve in this year’s state Class A tournament.

The Coyotes were seeded second and wound up a state finalist. They lost Saturday afternoon’s state championship game to the No. 1 seed, Gateway Christian. So, the tournament played out the way it had been seeded.

But, the Coyotes wanted more, expected more, from themselves than the 12-0, five-inning loss they endured Saturday at the University of New Mexico’s Santa Ana Star Field. They ran headlong into an undefeated team and a great senior pitcher, Jaydon Stephens, who kept them flummoxed most of the way. That wasn’t their fault.

But Dora did commit a staggering eight errors which were ... well, the gateway ... to the Warriors’ 20th victory that brought with it a state title. That was the Coyotes’ fault.

“I think we saved our worst game of the season for last,” Dora head coach Mason McBee said. “I don’t think we would’ve beaten anybody on this day. You can’t beat a good team playing like that.”

For Gateway Christian, Saturday was the last piece of a championship puzzle and the end of a perfect season.

“It feels great. It feels awesome,” Gateway head coach Rick Rapp said. “It really is about the kids.”

Rapp had the added benefit of being Stephens’ grandfather as well as his coach.

“He’s just a great kid,” Rapp said. “He plays all the sports, but he loves baseball. He’s my grandson, but he’s a great kid.”

That ‘great kid’ struck out 10 of the 17 Coyotes he faced in the five-inning game, allowing just two walks — none through the first four innings.

“To be honest, he’s been doing that all year long,” Rapp said, noting that Stephens threw two-hitters in two of the Warriors’ three regular-season wins over Dora.

Saturday, Stephens was even sharper.

“He’s got pretty good control,” Rapp said. “He didn’t have to use his curveball much. He threw his fastball mostly, but he does have a pretty good curveball.”

Yet it was Dora that jumped out to a decent start, as Coyotes sophomore Austin Wall led off the game by reaching on an error and getting all the way to second base. With Joseph Urioste batting, an errant pitch got to the backstop, allowing Wall to take third base.

Dora was that close to scoring first.

But Stephens struck out Urioste, then the next two Dora batters, lifting Gateway Christian and himself from the jam with no score.

Stephens led off the bottom of the first inning by hitting one that was misplayed in the outfield, allowing him to come motoring all the way around the bases. Officially, it was scored as Dora’s first error, but Stephens covered as much distance as he would’ve if it had been scored an inside-the-park homer, and gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead just the same.

Dora pitcher Haiden Padgett then retired Gateway Christian 1-2-3, with a strikeout and two ground outs to keep the difference at one.

Stephens fanned the Dora side again in the top of the second inning, and his team added three more in the bottom of that frame. Though Padgett was able to get the first two Gateway batters out, the Warriors’ Joseph Waide then reached on an error. Hurley Breedyk singled, allowing Waide to take third base, and Wyatt Arlet dropped a double into shallow center between three Dora fielders, sending both runners home to make it 3-0.

Stephens then whacked an RBI single, increasing Gateway’s lead to four.

The Warriors took a 6-0 advantage in the bottom of the third inning, getting a run when Hayden Wigley reached on an error and another on an RBI single from Breedyk.

Urioste led off the bottom of the fourth inning by collecting Dora’s first hit off Stephens. But alas, Urioste was caught stealing, just a microcosm of the tough day the Coyotes were having against Gateway Christian.

Dora committed four errors in the bottom of the fourth inning, allowing Gateway to add six more runs on just two hits and build a 12-0 lead.

The Warriors were then in 10-run-plus territory, meaning all they had to do was not allow three runs in the top of the fifth to win their first state championship since 2014. And though Stephens did surrender those two walks sandwiched around his 10th strikeout, he induced a game-ending double play to clinch the title.

Gateway Christian had finished 20-0, with one-fifth of those victories coming against Dora. Still, the Warriors didn’t enter the game thinking their three regular-season wins over the Coyotes guaranteed them anything in the fourth and most important matchup of the season. They had learned a harsh lesson about that last fall.

“Most of these kids played football,” Rapp said. “We beat Tatum a couple of times and then lost to them in the state championship. So I didn’t have to tell the kids that. We didn’t want to come in overconfident.”

For Dora (15-5), there was no shame in reaching the state’s final two.

“I’m proud of the kids. We have a lot of kids who are first-year players,” McBee said. “We just didn’t play well today.”


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