The Blizzard wrapped up their first full season in Taos on Sunday (July 21) with 4-3 win over Ratón’s Osos. The players hustled, stayed with plays after bobbles to get key outs and made numerous big plays thoughout the game. There were also a good amount of fans in the bleachers cheering, and the Blizzard gave them plenty of reasons to stick around.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” Blizzard manager Chris Tuttle said. “From a manager’s point of view, that’s what I was hoping for — give them a lasting memory for next year. Create a buzz showing what kind of baseball were capable of.”
The team had plenty of ups and downs throughout the season. Sunday’s win was certainly a high point, and the first inning set the tone for the rest of the game. Taos second baseman Zac Asman snagged a line drive and turned a double play at first. That momentum carried over to the bottom part of the inning. Jacob Campbell led off with a single, Matt Kaldon advanced him with a sacrifice bunt and then Mike Lange ripped an RBI triple down the right field line. Devin Bujnovski hit an opposite-field double to score Lange. Then, with two outs, Asman hustled to first to beat out a slow grounder and keep the inning alive. Hiroshi Senda then hit an RBI single to put Taos up, 3-0.
After that the game was a pitching and defensive battle, which isn’t the way most games go in the Pecos League. Ratón, for instance, scored 20 runs the night before against the Blizzard. Taos’ Shane Flynn, however, had his best performance of the season, pitching 7.2 innings and only giving up three runs on Sunday. “That was probably the best I felt all year,” Flynn said. “All of my pitches were working.”
Flynn, along with teammates Russ Burroughs and Alex Loftin, were all part of the Blizzard’s inaugural team last year, living in Las Vegas and driving a few hours almost every day to play. During that first year, the Blizzard played roughly a dozen of its 70-plus games in Taos. With the installation of lights at Taos High’s baseball field, AKA, the Taos Tundra, the Blizzard actually lived in Taos for their 2014 season.
“Being able to have a home field and the community behind us was amazing,” Burroughs said. “Not traveling three hours every day, it felt like we were home.”
“It was much better this year,” Flynn said. “We brought in so many players last year, it was a new team on a daily basis.” Besides a handful of late trades, the Blizzard mostly stayed intact this season.
The whole team, roughly 30 guys, also lived in one house last year. “It was terrible,” Flynn said, who was grateful to his host family for “taking good care of us.”
Almost everything about the Blizzard’s second season was better. Playing over 30 home games, Taos fans actually got a chance to to know the team this year.
“Our record doesn’t show it, but we had a good season,” Flynn said. “We all had fun.”
The fans had fun Sunday too. Campbell smacked a home run over the left field fence to put Taos up 4-1 in the fourth. There were also plays at the plate, double plays that swung the momentum both ways and some timely outs. When Flynn left the game in the eighth, the tying run was at second. Connor Sullivan, however, came in and got a strike out to end the inning. Matt Garlock then pitched a scoreless ninth to save the game, getting the final out after a hard grounder was hit right at him.
“When teams have ups and downs they want to pull apart, but we pulled together,” Burroughs said. “It’s not easy to play 70 games in 71 days, but we pushed ourselves to be a better team.”
The Blizzard made it two wins in a row Monday (July 21), beating the Santa Fe Fuego 13-10. Matt Kaldon went 4-5 in the game, smacking a home run, scoring three times and driving in three more. After Monday’s win, the Blizzard were 22-39 and still had a chance to finish third in the Pecos League North.
“This is the foundation,” Burroughs said. “Hopefully for years to come we’ll put a team out Taos can be proud of.”
The Blizzard finished 22-40.
Five players who started the season in Blizzard uniforms will compete in the playoffs. Dominic SanFelippo, Evan Mansell and Jordan Kraus will try to help the Roswell Invaders defend their Pecos League Championship.
The Invaders will take on the Alpine Cowboys in the best-of-three first round (July 25-27).
Now Trinidad Triggers Cody Coffman and Jared Hunt, meanwhile, will take on the Fuego for the Northern Division’s title. The winners of those two series will meet in the championship July 28-30.
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