East Mountain gets big win after ‘learning experience’ loss to Sandia Prep

East Mountain's John Spanjers eyeing his pitch against Sandia Prep last Thursday. Photo by G. Demarest.

East Mountain High School’s baseball team battered the Hot Springs Tigers on the road last Saturday, 15-1, when freshman Tommy Morgan drove in 5 runs for the Timberwolves in the mercy-ruled, five-inning contest.

“We got hits when we needed to get hits and we played great defense,” East Mountain head coach Dave Naylor said of the morale-boosting victory.

The win came two days after the T’Wolves faltered in an 11-3 loss at home to one of their new district rivals, the Sandia Prep Sundevils.

“They outplayed us,” Naylor said of the Sundevils. “If we make plays the score doesn’t look like that—we didn’t make plays when we needed to.”

East Mountain committed half a dozen errors in the game but Naylor said there was more to the loss than just the miscues.

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“Even without the errors, they beat us by hitting the ball, too. They hit the ball better than we did,” Naylor said.

John Spanjers started on the mound for East Mountain and was tagged for 2 runs in both the first and third innings. He also scored the T’Wolves’ first run in the bottom of the second.

“I feel like that was a real momentum pusher,” Spanjers said. “Getting that first run helps a lot.”

Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Morgan and Marcel Benavides drove in a pair of runs to make the score 4-3.

“We felt like we were right in it at that point,” said Hunter Harlan, who scored a run during the frame. But Sandia Prep added a run in the fifth inning, 2 in the sixth, and piled on 4 more in the seventh.

The two-time defending state champions slammed the door on the T’Wolves by bringing in their hard-throwing left-handed pitcher, Joe Martinez.

Martinez was the winning pitcher in both of Prep’s consecutive state title contests, tossing a two-hitter last year against Portales and pitching a perfect game against Ruidoso in 2015’s championship. “The guy’s probably the best pitcher in 4A,” Naylor said.

Martinez retired all 11 East Mountain batters he faced, fanning nine of them. He struck out the side in both the sixth and seventh innings.

“He didn’t seem as fast as people say he is, but it was definitely a challenge,” Alejandro Taylor-Wright said about facing Martinez. Taylor-Wright flied out to center field during his only at-bat against the lefty.

“I feel like this was a good learning experience,” Spanjers added. “A lot of guys on our team haven’t faced a guy who pitches like he does.”

East Mountain was scheduled to play at / played at… one of its other new district rivals, Santa Fe Indian School, on Tuesday after The Independent went to print.

The T’Wolves get another shot at Sandia Prep on Thursday, followed by hosting SFIS on Friday.