Candelaria hired to coach Tigers

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After a search committee conducted interviews for the baseball coaching job at Los Lunas High last Wednesday, they named a coach that had previous experience at the Tiger helm.

Pete Candelaria was named to the position after a two-game interim coaching stint this past season.

Interim Tiger coach Daniel Harmon, and Atrisco Heritage assistant coach Chris Juarez were the other two finalists interviewed. Seven candidates applied initially for the position, but the committee only asked three to return for a second interview.

"The committee was very pleased with all the candidates," said Los Lunas Schools athletic director Wilson Holland.

Candelaria filled in following the suspension of coach Robert Riggins in April. Los Lunas won his first game as the coach over Sandia Prep, 4-2 and then fell to Belen, 11-9.

Los Lunas went 3-1 to finish district play under Harmon's direction, including giving 6-4A champ Valencia their only loss in district play. LLHS went 6-4 in district games in 2011-12, and placed third in 6-4A.

The Tigers then came within one out of defeating powerful Albuquerque Academy in the first round of the state playoffs. They finished 18-11 overall in their second season since moving from Class 5A to 4A.

Prior to last season's short reign as Los Lunas coach, Candelaria spent seven years as a Los Lunas softball assistant coach.

He has also coached on a college staff at New Mexico Highlands University under coach Kimmer Carpenter.

Candelaria, who could not be reached for comment for this story, was a four-year starter for the Cowboys at shortstop and has a master's degree in social work from NMHU.

Candelaria played high school baseball for Belen from 1983 to 1986, earning all-district and all-state honors at shortstop.

"Pete Candelaria is very knowledgeable, passionate and a lifelong resident of Valencia County," said Holland of the hire.

Candelaria will recommend his own assistant coaches.

Los Lunas will hope to build on its state playoff berth from last season with several returning starters.

Isaac Parra and Ruger Rodriguez should return as the cornerstones of the pitching staff.

Parra also played third base and Rodriguez was a starter in center field last season. Both were all-district selections.

Catcher Greg Wortman and infielders John Rivera and Darron Gallegos were all honorable mention all-district selections for 2011-12.

The Tigers finished third in district last year with a 6-4 mark and 19-13 finished over all. Riggins' Tiger teams won 39 games in his two-plus seasons at the helm before he was removed from duty. He eventually resigned.


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