The thrill of making it to the high school state baseball tournament evaporated in less than 24 hours for the East Mountain Timberwolves last week.
In their first trip to the Class 4A playoffs since 2015, the T’Wolves gave everything they had but were eliminated in the first round by the top-ranked Hope Christian Huskies.
The Huskies pounded the T’Wolves 16-2 in last Friday’s first game, and rolled to a 10-0 shutout Saturday morning in the best-of-three series at Sandia High School’s field in Albuquerque. Both games ended in the fifth inning on the 10-run mercy rule.
“We did a pretty decent job of holding them at bay,” East Mountain head coach Dave Naylor said after Saturday’s elimination game, adding, “But they’re a good team. They hit the ball really well—it’s not a shock that they’re number one.”
East Mountain senior pitcher John Spanjers started the second game and surrendered a pair of runs and stuck out two Hope batters in the first two frames.
He gave up 2 more runs in the third inning before the Huskies erupted for 5 runs in the fourth. “John pitched really well through the first four innings,” Naylor said.
Offensively, the T’Wolves had a couple of opportunities to score but left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings. “We put the ball in play but it seemed like when we needed a timely hit, we hit it right at them—and we weren’t really driving the ball either,” Naylor said.
Conversely, Hope’s batters drove the ball consistently in both games, including East Mountain resident Brandon Bagon, who reached base five times in his six at-bats. He scored four runs and drove in two RBIs in the series.
“I think we had the mentality coming in that we had to get it done,” said Bagon, who lives in Tijeras. “We knew they’d be competitive, so we just played our game.”
East Mountain’s only runs during the series came in the fourth inning of Friday’s game after the Huskies had already built a commanding 15-0 lead.
Alejandro Taylor-Wright and Dominic Chavez led off the inning with base hits. They moved into scoring position on a double-steal. Spanjers drove in Taylor-Wright, and Chavez later scored on a wild pitch.
“I think it was exciting just to be here,” Taylor-Wright said, adding, “It’s a great opportunity to learn. It’s going to make us work harder next year because we know what it’s like—and I definitely want to go farther than just the first round.”
Naylor said the officiating during the series was questionable, particularly inconsistencies in the strike zone and a couple of balk calls that “disrupted the rhythm of the game,” but acknowledged, “That’s not why we lost.”
“We need to play better,” the coach said. “We need to get stronger and improve across the board, we need to work on pitching, and be more consistent. But we’re heading in the right direction. When you go from two wins to 12 wins, it’s pretty good.”
For more photos see the online version of The Independent at edgewood.news.