Coach hopes defeat at Southwest Regionals gives players an edge down the road

Land Matthies battling against Colorado during the first game of the Little League Juniors Division Southwest Regionals. Photo courtesy of Christine Case.

Less than two weeks after winning the state championship with the ease of a steamroller crushing a stack of paper cups, the East Mountain-Zia-Mile High combination All-Stars experienced a whole other ballgame at the next level.

The combination All-Stars team—comprising players from East Mountain, Zia, and Mile High Little Leagues—lasted just two games at the Little League Junior Division (14 year olds) Southwest Regional Baseball Tournament, Aug. 3-6 at Santa Ana Star Field in Albuquerque.

But the New Mexico state champs’ skipper said the team’s unsuccessful stint at the Southwest Regionals comes with a silver lining. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get a win,” head coach Sam Montoya said. “But to be here and enjoy the spotlight was nice and I think the boys enjoyed it as well.”

The New Mexico state champs lost 10-9 to the Colorado state champs in the Aug. 3 opening game. The combination All-Stars were dispatched from the double-elimination tournament the next day after a 14-3 loss to the Texas West All Stars.

“I knew coming into this [tournament] it was gonna be tough,” Montoya said.

Against Colorado, the score was tied after the first and second innings. New Mexico trailed 3-2 after the third. Land Matthies’ RBI single in the top of the fourth fueled a 2-run spurt to give New Mexico a brief 4-3 lead before Colorado pulled ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the frame. Gabe Case’s run in the fifth capped a 4-run surge that put New Mexico up 8-5.

The combination All-Stars were within reach of a victory when they added another run in the sixth to push their lead to 9-5.

But Colorado scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and tallied 3 more in the seventh—the winning run coming on a wild pitch that scored a runner from third base with two outs.

“I have to say, the boys played phenomenally against Colorado, they battled really hard,” Montoya said.

In the second game, the Texas West All Stars—one of two Texas teams at the tournament—proved to be too strong for the New Mexico team.

Texas West scored 3 runs in the first inning and added 4 more in the second.

New Mexico got its only runs of the game in the top of the third inning when Josh Tenorio, Connor McCall and Reese Polk all scored.

Texas West added a run in the bottom half of the frame and sealed the victory with 6 runs in the fourth. The game ended in the fifth inning on the 10-run mercy rule.

“All I asked from [the players] was to continue playing with heart, and they did,” Montoya said, adding, “I told them, ‘This is not the end.’ These boys are great ball players—they’re all gonna go play high school ball and I hope this experience gives them an edge.”

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