Coronavirus halts Texico's drive for five
March 15, 2020
TEXICO — Maybe if enough people cross their fingers, there will be a 2020 high school baseball season.
Texico’s baseball team, a four-time defending state champion, must wish it were just that easy, wish that simply crossing fingers could make the coronavirus go away, and get life — along with the Wolverines’ quest for a fifth straight title — back on schedule.
It there is a season, head coach Ty Thatcher thinks his team is built to contend for a fifth consecutive state crown.
“Oh yeah, I think we can be at least as good as we were last year,” Thatcher said as a late-Thursday-afternoon practice at Texico’s baseball field was winding down. “If we can stay healthy and come together, this team can compete.”
Staying healthy can have a whole different context in light of recent world news, but Thatcher was of course referring to the standard notion of avoiding injuries. If the Wolverines stay intact — and have a season to stay intact for — they could be hoisting a state-championship trophy for the fifth consecutive spring.
“Very excited,” junior catcher David Davalos said. “We always come prepared; we have that killer mentality where we want to hit the ball as hard as we can in those gaps and just play to the best of our abilities on defense.”
“We seem pretty solid,” junior infielder Freddy Davalos said. “We could still use some work. ... But I think we have a pretty solid team this year.”
Especially on the mound. The lone starting pitcher gone from last year’s team is the coach’s son Dalton Thatcher. The younger Thatcher, sporting a new bleach-blonde hairdo, helped out with Thursday’s practice because he was home on spring break from Arizona Christian University, but his high school career wrapped up nearly a year ago when the Wolverines beat Estancia 13-3 at the University of New Mexico’s Santa Ana Star Field for their fourth-straight state title.
Back, though, is that game’s winning pitcher. Lefty Seth Griego, now a junior, returns to the rotation as does now-senior Luke Phipps, who closed out last year’s championship victory with a performance that included escaping a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning.
Isaac Ortiz — who ate some key innings last year — has graduated, but Coach Thatcher is confident in the pitching depth his team has returning.
Behind Phipps and Griego in the rotation are senior Cian Holmes and junior Josh Myers. “That’ll probably be the top four,” Coach Thatcher said.
Holmes jumped out to a great start last season, hurling a two-hitter against Hatch Valley until suffering what was initially hoped to be a pinched nerve in his back before turning out to be a stress fracture. After undergoing back surgery, Holmes should be ready to go whenever the season is.
“We just need to get him on the field,” Coach Thatcher said.
The coach expects junior Anton Goins to also figure into the pitching mix. “He will eat up some innings,” Thatcher noted.
Then there’s returning senior Ruger Horton who “will pitch a little in relief,” according to Coach Thatcher.
Griego should play some first base when he’s not pitching. When Griego is on the mound, Horton or Goins could play first. Coach Thatcher says that Goins can play any infield position and will play second base specifically when Holmes is pitching, with junior Freddy Davalos playing short. Holmes will play shortstop when he isn’t pitching, with Freddy Davalos playing second base — where he played every out last year — in those scenarios.
Myers will play mostly third, but can also play the outfield. Senior Manuel Loera and Goins are additional third-base options.
Left field could be manned by Horton, Loera or Griego, depending on the situation and who’s swinging the most productive bat. Senior Chris Harrison can catch, but will spend most of his time roaming center field. Harrison was a member of the Wolverines’ 2018 state-title run successfully completed at Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park, but suffered a knee injury during football season later that year and spent last baseball season rehabbing. “Hopefully we get an opportunity to see him perform (this spring),” Coach Thatcher said.
When Phipps isn’t pitching he will play right field, his position since eighth grade. Harrison can also play right.
David Davalos provides stability as the team’s catcher.
The varsity roster is rounded out by juniors Francisco Mendoza and Troy Teague, a pair of up-and-coming players for Texico.
It’s a solid mix, despite the graduation losses of Dalton Thatcher, Cole Rohrbach, Robin Winton, Ortiz and Josh Douma. If there is a season, it’s a mix that could stir up another championship.
“All in all it’s what every team’s after,” David Davalos said. “But I feel like the team with the most discipline and effort wins it all. I feel like we’ve got it here.”
“It’s going to be challenging,” Loera said, “but I think we can do it.”
“I’m expecting good things,” Coach Thatcher said.
Perhaps the Wolverines get a chance to prove Thatcher right.