Jaguars look to build after State Tourney loss
The underdog Valencia High School baseball team couldn't find victory on the road in the Class 4A State Baseball Tournament. But they did find something to build off of for next season after losing their best 2-of-3 series 2-1 to host Santa Teresa last weekend.
The 13th-seeded Jaguars were shelled 15-0 by the Desert Warriors in Friday's opening game, but rebounded in Game 2 Saturday morning, serving up a shutout of their own, rebounding for a tight 2-0 win over four-seed Santa Teresa (23-6).
But the Desert Warriors won another tight affair, topping Valencia 4-3 in the series finale Saturday afternoon to claim the series and a spot in this weekend's quarterfinals. Santa Teresa now faces another Valencia County opponent, the Los Lunas Tigers, at 3 p.m. Thursday at La Cueva High School.
Defense was the main problem in Game 1, with the Jags committing four errors while struggling to get anything going offensively against the Warriors' pitching.
"We didn't have a good showing the first day, but Saturday we played really well," VHS head coach Carlos Carrasco.
Valencia (11-18) managed just one hit while the Desert Warriors piled on 12 hits off Valencia's pitchers, Tyler Klein and Jose Galaviz.
Game 2 saw a reversal of fortune as the Jags and Santa Teresa went into a pitching duel, ultimately won by Valencia's Garret Garcia. The sophomore registered six strikeouts and gave up just two hits while the Jaguars mustered four hits and scored one run each in the fourth and seventh innings.
"In the second game, we threw our best pitcher, Garret," said Carrasco. "They weren't able to hit him very well. We got ahead early and that's all Garrret needed to get us the W."
In Game 3, Valencia jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but the Warriors responded with three runs in the bottom of the first to take a 3-2 lead.
The Jaguars tied the game with a run in the top of the sixth, brought in on a single by pinch hitter Cade Garcia, one of only three seniors on the Jags squad.
"We hit really well and pitched well once we settled in," said Carrasco.
Valencia was held scoreless in the top of the seventh and then Carrasco had pitcher Anthony Gonzales intentionally walk a pair of batters with one out after having a batter reach base and get to third on a wild pitch after a steal.
The strategy of getting to the bottom of the Desert Warriors' lineup did not pay off as the next batter slapped a hit to third where it was misplayed, allowing the runner to score from third base to end the game and the series.
"It was a crushing loss because it was intense and a big moment and we just ended up on the wrong side of it," said Carrasco.
Despite the loss, Carrasco said he has high hopes for next season, with six sophomores returning as juniors and now having a year of varsity play under their belts.
"We grew tremendously from the beginning to the game at Santa Teresa," Carrasco said. "Ours was the only series that went to 3 games, so as (a 13-seed) being close to advancing as only lower seed means the expectations are huge for next year.
""So we're excited but the expectation to make a run next year is there – not just from the rest of the state but from ourselves," he said.