Heading into the final two weeks of the team’s season, the Blizzard have a lot of work to do of they’re going to reach the playoffs. The Blizzard, however, feel ready for the challenge.
“We want to win as many as we can to get that second playoff spot — that’s our only shot,” Taos manager Chris Tuttle said. “Every game is that much more important from now on.”
To get into the playoffs, the Blizzard will have to pass the Trinidad Triggers, who had an eight-game lead over Taos at press time (July 8). The majority of the Blizzard’s final games aren’t against easy teams either, they’re against the North Division leaders, the Santa Fe Fuego. The Fuego have all but locked up one of the North Division’s two playoff spots.
“We’ll see if we can knock them down a few notches,” Taos’ Steve Taft said. “We’re not going to let them walk into the playoffs, that’s for sure.”
On Monday (July 7), the Blizzard got a big win over Trinidad, 9-6.
In the first inning, Evan Mansell hit a home run with Taft and Brandon Cooksey on base, putting Taos up 3-0. The Triggers tied the game the next inning and would have taken the lead except Dominic SanFelippo gunned out a runner at home from center field.
In the fourth inning, SanFelippo gave Taos the lead with a 2-RBI single and later scored on a base hit by Mansell.
The Triggers would tie the game again. Back-to-back RBI doubles got them within a run of Taos in the fifth, then Maximiano Garza hit a solo home run to tie the game at six in the sixth. Pitcher Dayron Silva-Pérez was relieved after the sixth, but the Blizzard almost put him in position for the win. Taos loaded the bases in their half of the sixth, but weren’t able to bring any of them home. Taos had runners in scoring position again in the seventh, but couldn’t bring them home.
In the bottom of the eighth, however, the Blizzard got the timely hits it needed. Taft hit a ground-rule double to start the inning and scored on a Cooksey single. Then, with two outs, the Blizzard was able to pad its lead. Cody Coffman hit an RBI single, Brian Rich walked and then Alex Loftin hit an RBI single, putting Taos up 9-6.
Matt Garlock came on in the ninth, struck out two and got a batter to pop out to secure the win. Joe Katin and Enoch Deaton also pitched scoreless innings in the win.
“It’s always good to win one at home,” Taft said. “We’re playing our best ball of the season right now — everybody is picking each other up.”
After winning seven of 10 games to end June, the Blizzard struggled against the Fuego to start the July. The Fuego won four of five games against Taos to begin the month. “Some errors cost us — they led to big innings,” Tuttle said. “The bright spot was our starting pitching gave us a chance to win three of those games.” Mike Lange was also hurt making a diving catch, which took some power out of Taos’ lineup.
Santa Fe won the first game of the series, 12-3, on Tuesday, July 1. Taos’ Dominic SanFelippo hit a 2-run home run in the ninth, but it was too little, too late.
On July 3, Mike Staub struck out 12 and only allowed three earned runs in 6.0 innings, but the Blizzard bullpen was unable to hold onto the lead. Staub left with a one-run lead, but the Blizzard ended up losing the game, 7-4.
The Fuego scored their third straight win, 5-3, over Taos the next night (July 4). Cody Coffman went 3-3 at the plate, doubling twice, scoring twice, hitting a home run and knocking in a pair of runs to supply Taos’ offense. Jordan Kraus, meanwhile, gave up three earned runs in 5.0 innings, but suffered the loss. The game was called after six innings because of a lightening storm.
Taos’ entire offense showed up on Saturday (July 5). The Blizzard beat the Fuego 16-8 and eight of Taos’ nine starters had at least two base hits in the win. Trailing 5-4 in the fifth, the Blizzard scored nine runs in the inning. Jared Hunt doubled in a run. Coffman hit a 3-run home run and later pitcher Richie Anderson hit one over the fence. Cooksey also hit a pair of home runs in the game, his 13th and 14th of the season. SanFelippo went 4-6 at the plate and scored twice while Hunt scored three times in the game. Anderson pitched seven innings to get the win while Deaton didn’t allow any runs in the last two innings.
On July 6, however, the Fuego blew out the Blizzard, 18-2. Matt Kaldon hit a solo home run for Taos, but five Fuego players also hit dingers.
Beginning on Sunday (July 13), the Blizzard will begin its final home stand of the season, an eight-game stretch. Those eight games will be the Blizzard’s last contests in Taos this season. The team’s regular season will end July 23 in Santa Fe.
“It’s going to be a good end to the season,” Taft said. “We’ll go on a nice run.”
The Blizzard are also inviting kids to join them in batting practice before games from 4 - 5 p.m. The team is also planning on an ’80s-themed night, auctioning autographed bats and giving anyone else who asks for an autograph one too during the team’s final home stand.
“We’re focusing on getting guys moved up (to higher levels of pro ball) and setting a good foundation to come back even stronger next year,” Tuttle said. “We’ll try to finish the season with good home crowds. With eight games left, we’ll do whatever we can to get people involved.”
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