On a gray, sandblasted afternoon in Northern New Mexico, the Taos Tigers outlasted Class 5A Española Valley Sundevils 4-3 in extra innings to notch another win in the appropriate column March 31. Disruptive winds wreaked havoc on players as they withstood gusts that reportedly reached 50 miles per hour. Blowing dust created a brown haze that nearly blocked out the view of the surrounding mountains. Ice-cold, intermittent raindrops only added further discomfort to an already-uncomfortable setting in Sundevil country.
Taos was the visiting team on this occasion due to schedule conflicts that likely would have canceled or postponed a doubleheader at Taos’ Cardenas Field between the two teams April 1. This was the second time the Tigers had a home game reshuffled and moved to Española. The Tigers played a doubleheader against the Socorro Warriors at neutral site, Española Valley High School, after a late-spring storm caused the move March 25. In both games, the Tigers came out on top with a 6-5 come-from-behind win in the first and a 10-0 rout in the second.
Versus Española Valley, Taos trailed for most of the game – scoring only once in the first five innings – but managed to keep the Sundevil bats doused as well during the same stretch. Starting pitcher Brandon Montoya was effective on the mound for the Tigers for four innings – giving up just one hit and two runs. Montoya registered eight strikeouts on the day and recorded a total of 84 pitches.
Coming in to relieve Montoya was Daniel Aguilar, who took over hurling duties in the fifth inning and closed the game by allowing just two hits and one run for the win. His three strikeouts were augmented by effective fielding by Taos, as two grounders and one pop-up ended the game with Española at the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Senior center-fielder Rec Reid led the Tigers’ offense with three hits and one run – including a dramatic headfirst slide into the plate for Taos’ first score of the day. Reid was joined by Quinn Moon, A.J. Fresquez and Tyrone Green, who each had two hits. Miguel Quintana, Enrique Archuleta and Santiago “Saint” Cortez each added one hit for a team total of 12.
District 2-4A season begins
According to coach Miguel Quintana, the positions have been filled on defense and the “experimental phase” is done as the Tigers enter the District 2-4A season knowing their particular strengths. “We have some interchangeability with a few players and positions on the field, but for the most part, we are solid all around,” said Quintana. “Plus the new pitch count rules give us a real advantage because of our deep pitching staff.”
Quintana was referring to new rules imposed by the New Mexico Activities Association that oblige coaches to protect the developing arms of their young players. The pitching restrictions state that “a varsity pitcher may throw 120 pitches in any one day.” The rules go on to require rest days for players who throw a certain amount of pitches. For example, if a player throws 41-60 pitches in one game, that player must rest one calendar day before pitching again. “This brings a cerebral aspect to the game, as we coaches must now pay close attention to our hurlers,” said Quintana, who likened the challenge to a game of chess. “I think we can use this to our advantage down the stretch and into the postseason.”
Well, the stretch has arrived for Quintana and his Taos Tigers (8-3), who enter league play with the fewest losses, but find themselves neck and neck with St. Michael’s (9-7, 2-1), Robertson (11-4, 2-1) and West Las Vegas (7-5, 1-1) in the win percentage column. Pojoaque Valley (7-8, 0-2) is currently bringing up the rear in the district standings, but Quintana warns about overlooking any team in 2-4A.
“There is definitely talent in our district,” said Quintana. “I know coaches say this all the time, but we’re literally going to take it one game at time, one inning at a time, one at-bat at a time.”
The Tigers played their first district game against the St. Michael’s Horsemen - losing 3-2 in a snow filled game at Chridtian Brothers Sports Complex in Santa Fe April 4. The next challenge for the Tigers will be a doubleheader versus the Robertson Cardinals at home April 8. The midday action will begin at Cardenas Field at 11 a.m.