The high altitude of the Pecos League fields has been a dream for hitters and a nightmare for its pitchers.
After the Taos Blizzard’s first 47 games, the team had scored 388 runs, hit 60 home runs, doubled 107 times and had a team batting average of .331. It’s pitchers, meanwhile, had a combined ERA of 8.56.
“They hate it,” Blizzard manager Matt Leahy said about his pitchers.
The altitude has combined with the dry air to not only make balls sail further when they’re hit, but also give them less movement after leaving the pitchers’ hand.
When the Blizzard’s hitting and pitching come together in the same day, however, the team has been formidable.
Against the Ratón Osos, the offense and pitching were both on target, helping Taos sweep the Osos. The Blizzard scored 44 runs in the four-game series, but the difference maker was the team’s pitching.
“We pitched four games in a row,” Leahy said. “Our starters got into the fifth and sixth innings and our relievers came in and shut the door. That was the biggest thing. We’re always going to hit so our key component the rest of the year is coming in and pitching.”
The Blizzard’s pitching staff limited the Osos to 18 runs in the four games, helping Taos extend Ratón’s losing streak to 22 games.
In the series finale Thursday (June 27) in Taos, the Blizzard scored in each of the first seven innings to build a 14-2 lead and eventually win the game 14-4. John Apostolo homered in the first inning to tie the game at 1. After Ratón took the lead back in the second, Louis Gonzales, Andrew Shoemaker and Apostolo all had RBI base hits to put Taos back up, 4-2. In the third, Tyler Oldham started the inning by hitting a home run down the right field line. Oldham, who just joined the Blizzard, is batting .444 in his first 12 games with four homers.
Later in the third inning, Shoemaker got his second RBI single of the game. In addition to contributing at the plate, Shoemaker also kept Ratón’s bats in check on the mound to get the win.
“We traded for (Shoemaker) from Roswell and he came in and shut the door for five innings,” Leahy said. “Hopefully guys see that outing and want to duplicate it or do one better. That’s what we need — we need pitchers to get us deep so we can make changes like we did today.”
Some of Taos’ other offensive highlights from the game included RBI doubles by Oldham, Gonzales and an RBI triple by Mike Perrone.
Taos’ pitching, however, wasn’t quite as consistent in their next series against Alpine. The Cowboys scored over 11 runs in four out of the five games. In Taos’ lone victory of the series, 5-3, on June 29, six different Blizzard pitches combined to limit Alpine to 3 earned runs. Oldham, meanwhile, provided the offense again. He homered once and finished with four RBIs. Mike Fasolo knocked in Taos’ other run.
In the first game of the Alpine series, Chris Constantino and Blair Springfield homered to help Taos build a big lead, but Alpine rallied with 6 runs in the eighth inning to win the game, 11-10.
The Blizzard almost returned the favor June 30, scoring 6 runs in the eighth to take an 8-7 lead, but Alpine responded with 5 runs of their own in the eighth to escape with a 12-9 win. Calvin Culver homered and had had 3 RBIs in the loss. Eric McGee also hit a pair of homers in the series while Constantino went deep for the ninth time and James Long hit his first dinger. So far this season, 19 different Blizzard players have hit home runs.
The Blizzard will now play four-game series against Santa Fe and Ratón, pausing for the all-star game on July 6. Taos next home game on the Tundra will be Sunday (July 7) at 2 p.m. against Ratón.