Correction: The name of the batter who hit the game winning RBI was incorrectly named Jalen Montoya. His correct name is Jalen Montaño, and has been changed in the story below. The Taos News sports department apologizes for this error.
With one swing of the bat, a dogfight was settled.
The Taos Tigers baseball team won its district home opener in dramatic fashion, beating the St. Michael's Horsemen 9-8 and making a case for top team in the district.
Taos jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning off solid hitting from the top half of the lineup. St. Mike's responded with a pair of runs in the second before pitchers from both teams settled in.
Offensively, both teams traded a plethora of hits and runs throughout the contest - creating the climax in the final outs of the ballgame.
Up by one run heading into to the top of the seventh inning, Taos allowed a triple by St. Mike's Sean Latham to start the side. Latham eventually scored the run to tie the game at 8-8, but the Tigers held off the Horsemen and headed into the dugout with the final at-bat opportunity to try to provide an answer.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Taos' Noah Armijo blasted a shot over the right field fence - albeit on one bounce - to earn the ground-rule double and put the game-winning run at second base.
With German Perez at the plate and pinch runner Brandon Martinez at second, a subsequent base-on-balls pitch that hit the dirt allowed Martinez to steal third base. This set up a key at-bat for eighth-grader Jalen Montaño, who punched a single to right field to bring in Martinez for the "walk-off" single and the win.
The victory extended the Tigers' current win streak to eight games and their 10th win in the last 11 games dating back to March 15. The improvement comes on the heels of an 0-5 start and boosts Taos' overall record to 10-6.
"Those early losses were to bigger, better teams," said Taos Coach Miguel Quintana, alluding to defeats at the hands of 5A and 6A teams during tournaments in Roswell and Santa Fe. "The fact that we played against teams like Cibola, Roswell and Goddard is paying dividends now."
As for the turning point in this latest game, Quintana downplayed the late game heroics by the many individuals who helped orchestrate the win. Instead he credited all his hitters.
"I think we surprised them with the early game rally that gave us a three-point lead," said Quintana, "They underestimated our offensive potential."
On the horizon for Taos is a showdown against the Robertson Cardinals (11-1, 1-0), who will visit Cardenas Field for a double-header Saturday (April 7). The Cardinals are currently number one in Class 4A. With the Tigers heading into this pivotal game against their rivals at 2-0 in league play, the match takes on an exciting flavor.
"With this win, we actually brought a lot of attention to ourselves," said Quintana. "We're going to have to be on our toes from here on out."
It could be another dogfight. Game times are 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.