Jags split with 4A foes; district Tuesday


Tuesday, the Valencia High baseball team picked a strange time for a retro day.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Garrett Garcia of Valencia High fields a grounder in Tuesday’s game. The Jaguars split with a pair of Class 4A teams this week, and after hosting Lovington for a 2 p.m. Saturday doubleheader, Valencia hosts its District 6-4A opener Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. against Gallup.

The Jaguars played as if it was their first year of varsity, missing balls in the field and swinging poorly at the plate, as if it were 2008 again. In fact, some of the mistakes the Jaguars made in Tuesday’s home 10-0, five-inning, mercy-rule loss to Artesia didn’t even happen often, in that first varsity season.

Fortunately, the Jaguars (4-8) bounced back for a 3-0 home victory over Aztec on Thursday, in Valencia’s final pre-district game against a Class 4A team. The 4A Jaguars host 3A Lovington for a 2 p.m. doubleheader Saturday, and the Gallup Bengals come to VHS on Tuesday for the District 6-4A opener at 3:30 p.m.

“The coaching staff tried a little different approach, and I guess we’re going to have to try something else,” said VHS coach Carlos Carrasco, regarding the humbling Artesia loss. “For the past several games, we just haven’t played well.”

The Jags played the final two games of last weekend’s Piedra Vista Invite, along with this week’s games, without senior leader Robert Carrasco. Carlos, his brother, wanted to make it clear that even though Robert’s leadership and skills are valuable, he doesn’t want to pin any of the team’s recent struggles on Robert’s absence.

Robert Carrasco has an injured ankle, and his status is being evaluated game by game.

Gallup might or might not be a formidable opponent for the Jaguars. Valencia split its 6-4A games against Gallup, but this year, the 2-7 Bengals have been pummeled a few times.

Artesia 10, Valencia 0 (5 inn.)

Tuesday at Valencia, the Jaguars struggled in both the infield and outfield in cold, windy conditions, and at the plate, waved meekly at some pitches.

The Jaguars made five errors, and a couple of Bulldog hits could have been outs. One was a first-inning fly that the Valencia right fielder couldn’t track, and the three runs that scored on the play seemed to open the floodgates.

The Bulldogs (5-5), ranked No. 5 in this week’s Class 4A coaches association poll, went on to score two more runs in the second inning, one each in the third and fourth, and three in the fifth. Artesia starting pitcher Jaden Nelson only gave up two hits to the Jaguars in four innings. Trevor Eulenbach pitched the fifth inning, surrendering only a walk, which he erased with a deft pickoff throw to first base.

Joe Salas started and lasted into the fifth inning before Josh Baca finished up. Coach Carrsasco said his top pitcher, Jorge Venegas, was out sick Monday, so he decided not to put the senior on the mound Tuesday.

“I would have liked to have seen Venegas pitch,” said Artesia coach Clay Foster. “But Salas pitched well, and he’s better than most guys in 4A. Carlos does an amazing job with this team, and I only like to play quality teams. Everyone I talked to said ‘Yes, put them on your schedule,’ so we only won because we put the ball in play.”

Valencia 3, Aztec 0

Thursday, in warm, calm weather, the host Jaguars ended a four-game skid by shutting out the Tigers (6-4).

Senior pitcher Jorge Venegas struck out 14 batters for the Jaguars, scattering seven hits. Valencia made no errors, while the Tigers made two.

The Jags only need two hits to score their runs, all of which came in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cody Koontz knocked in two runs with a hit, and Jude Pepke knocked in a run in the frame.

Venegas improved to 1-3 with the win.

-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.