Valencia bats Belen into submission

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The Belen baseball team had plenty of motivation to play its best game of the season against host Valencia Tuesday afternoon at Jaguar Field.

But for whatever reason, the Eagles again came out flat, and this time paid dearly for it as the Jaguars scored runs in each of the first three innings, including eight runs in the third on their way to a mercy-shortened 13-3 win over Belen.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA RUNNERS Josue Ruiz, left, and Anthony Gonzales, right, take leads during a bases loaded situation while Belen third baseman Gabriel Lucero readies himself in the Jaguars 13-3 victory.

The Eagles remained in third place with a 4-3 mark in District 6-4A and a 14-7 record overall, while Valencia moved to 16-5 and still in the league lead at 6-1 along with Los Lunas, which is also 6-1 with three games left in the regular season.

VHS coach Carlos Carrasco said his team was very eager to move past their 8-3 loss to Miymamura in Gallup — a game in which the Jaguars committed several uncharacteristic errors.

“We really wanted to bounce back from that horrible game on Saturday; we wanted to get ahead early,” Carrasco said. “We’ve been able to get to this point because we’ve been able to play catch, throw strikes and execute offensively … to execute when we needed to. That wasn’t the case on Saturday but we made it a point of emphasis to do those three phases.”

VHS senior pitcher Josh Baca struck out six and held Belen to two hits through four innings before surrendering three hits and a walk in the fifth inning as Belen scored three runs but fell just short of extending the game.

“Josh hadn’t started,” said Carrasco. “He was more of our relief guy, but an opportunity came up for us to pitch him today and he threw lights out.”

Belen’s fortunes looked to be good as pitcher Nick Aragon singled to lead off the first inning. But two strikeouts and a pop up fly later, Baca and the Jags were out of the inning.

Valencia got a runner into scoring position immediately in the bottom of the first and cashed in a run to take a 1-0 lead. After taking the Eagles down one-two-three in the second, Valencia looked to be going the same direction when they scored a double and loaded the bases on a hit batter one at bat later.

Carlos Ramirez then singled to left field to bring in two runs and the Jags tacked on another on a high fly by Garret Garcia that got caught in the wind and fell between a trio of Belen defenders, allowing Tyler Kline to score and make the Jaguar lead 5-0 going into the third inning.

After the Eagles stranded another runner in the top of the third, Valencia’s bats lit up in the bottom of the inning. The Jags loaded the bases with three straight singles before a walk brought in their first run of the inning. A triple and three infield miscues later, Valencia was up 10-0 with no outs on the board.

The Jaguars added three more runs before Belen finally got an out on a fielder’s choice and ran down a VHS runner between first and second bases to end the inning with VHS up 13-0.

After each team suffered through fruitless at-bats, the Eagles came up in the top of the fifth inning. After a lead-off single by Adan Contreras, Belen took a walk and had a runner reach base on an error to load the bases.

Nick Aragon then slapped a single to left-center field, bringing in Contreras and Ray Searles to cut the Valencia lead to 13-2. Belen scored one more run and was poised to score more, but the Jaguars got Gabriel Lucero to hit into a 6-5-3 double play to end the inning and the game.

“It was good to see these guys get back on it. Belen threw some good arms at us,” said Carrasco. “So to be able to get hits against both of them was really exciting for me to see. We had started to wonder ‘Did we peak too soon?’ But Saturday (now) seems like a hiccup.”

For Belen, the loss — the second in three games — was disappointing and baffling, said BHS coach Steve Contreras.

“This was a real tough loss,” Contreras said. “We have to do a better job in every aspect of the game right now. I think a little part of its is motivation.

“It’s hard to put a finger on it. We’ve got to fix some attitude and effort. We were having a great season and hit a bit of a rough spot and some of the guys can’t seem to shake it. So as a coach, I’m racking my brain on how to do that. We’re just back to the drawing board (now).”