The Taos Blizzard started its season with championship aspirations. When the team was eliminated from playoff contention last week, however, Taos manager Chris Tuttle traded six of his top players to teams who still had a shot of winning it all.
The Roswell Invaders and Trinidad Triggers both had a handful of players get promoted to teams in the Frontier League and the American Association of Independent Baseball. Now some former Blizzard players are in their starting lineups.
“I told them it was a promotion within the league,” Tuttle said.
Center fielder Dominic SanFelippo, third baseman Evan Mansell and pitcher Jordan Kraus were traded to Roswell. Catcher Cody Coffman and infielder Jared Hunt were traded to Trinidad while Brandon Cooksey was traded to the Bisbee Blue. With SanFelippo, Mansell and Cooksey gone, pitcher Richie Anderson is now Taos’ lone remaining all-star.
Trinidad and Roswell are currently in second-place in the Pecos League’s North and South divisions, but Bisbee isn’t far behind Roswell in the playoff hunt. The Santa Fe Fuego, meanwhile, is the only playoff team that hasn’t promoted any of its players. Alpine had six players get promoted, but all of them were promoted before the team’s season started.
On Monday (July 14) the Blizzard looked like a totally different team in a 27-4 loss to Santa Fe. In addition the the six players traded, Steve Taft was on the bench nursing an injured elbow. Alex Fera’s season was also cut short because of a family emergency — the day after he went 4-4 and hit a home run. After all of the trades and injuries, there were five new players on the field while a few other players had switched positions.
Mike Lange had recovered from a hand injury and was back at first base, but everything else had changed. Matt Kaldon, who suffered a pair of concussions playing catcher, has switched to shortstop. Adam Chatman moved from right field to center field. Shane Flynn was out of the bull pen and started the game. Russ Burroughs was still in the bull pen, but switched his pitching style and is now a submariner. Catcher Brian Rich also pitched an inning to save some of the arms in the bull pen. Recent acquisitions Jacob Campbell, Hiroshi Senda, Max Garza, Zac Asman and Devin Bujnovsky filled out Taos’ lineup.
For most of the players in the lineup, they were finally getting a chance to show what they can do.
“They’re getting some playing time and they’re taking advantage of it,” Tuttle said.
The Blizzard, however, have gone 1-7 since trading SanFelippo and Mansell. On July 8, SanFelippo tripled and knocked in his 45th RBI and Mansell knocked in his 44th RBI in an 11-6 loss to Trinidad.
The next night Taos led the Fuego 5-2 after five innings. Santa Fe, however, scored five runs in the ninth inning to win the game, 8-6. Kraus pitched six innings and didn’t give up any earned runs in the loss.
On July 10, Fera led the Blizzard to an 8-6 win over the Fuego in his last game, smacking a homer, scoring twice and going 4-4. Anderson pitched in the win. He gave up four earned runs in 6.1 innings and also had a pair of RBIs. Anderson is 5-4 overall and was scheduled to start July 15, after this section went to press.
Santa Fe shut out Taos on July 11. Taft and Alex Loftin got the team’s only three hits in the 11-0 loss. Andrew Bruder gave up three earned runs in five innings, but suffered the loss.
On July 12, Taos played another game in Santa Fe’s little-league sized field. Dayron Silva-Perez, however, kept the Fuego in check, only giving up two runs in five-plus innings. “He pitched a beautiful game,” Tuttle said. Santa Fe, however, scored two runs in the eighth to win the game, 5-4.
The Fuego also won the last two games of the series, 11-7 and 27-4.
“There have been games where we played beautiful baseball and were one play away from a win,” Tuttle said. “Those are tough to swallow.” The blowouts, however, he said “are tougher to swallow because I know how well we can compete.”
The Blizzard only have a few games left to find consistency with its new lineup. The Blizzard are at home through Sunday and will then finish their season in Santa Fe.
A few wins against Ratón, however, could move Taos ahead of the Osos in the final standings. “That’s our goal for the remainder of the season — to finish third,” Tuttle said. “We want to give thanks to the community, and we want to do that by winning games.”
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