Through gusty winds that produced dust devils and mini-sandstorms, the dual pitching performances of Nazareth “Naz” Garcia and Elijah Tapia helped propel the Moriarty High School baseball team to a doubleheader sweep over the visiting Pojoaque Elks last Saturday.
“It was a good day to be us,” Moriarty head coach Denny Young said of the 3-2 and 9-1 victories. “In this wind, to play the way we did and still come away with a couple of wins, it’s good.”
The sweep, on top of last Thursday’s 3-0 win at Los Alamos, improved the Pintos’ record to 8-3.
“It feels great knowing everyone on your team is ready-pumped,” junior pitcher and infielder Garcia said after picking up the win in the second game.
Garcia—who threw a lot of off-speed stuff including his signature knuckleball—pitched seven innings allowing 1 run on six hits while striking out three Pojoaque batters. “I was just trying to pitch-to-hit because my defense was outstanding,” Garcia said. “If I get a K, it’s good, but I trust my defense.”
Moriarty’s defense turned two double plays in the game.
“He was very efficient out there,” Young said of Garcia. “He got a lot of ground ball outs, he got a little run support and he didn’t have to pitch under stress the whole game.”
That run support came mostly in the bottom of the third inning when the Pintos plated 6 runs.
Cody Pisz led off the inning with a fly ball that the Elks’ left fielder couldn’t hold onto. Pisz went to second base on Antonio Mora’s infield base hit.
Then, as Pisz attempted to steal third, Pojoaque’s catcher overthrew his third baseman and the ball sailed down the left field line. Pisz came home on a face-first slide in a cloud of dust.
Elijah Tapia’s 3-RBI double capped the scoring surge and the Pintos were sitting on a 7-0 cushion.
Pisz scored again in the fourth inning and a Mora RBI in the fifth rounded out Moriarty’s run production.
In the first game, the persistently howling wind forced the umpires to call four timeouts to allow the blowing dust to settle.
“It was really hard, especially hitting, the dust was coming right at you,” Tapia said.
He went the distance on the mound, allowing 1 earned run—the Elks scored their first run in the top of the second inning off a Moriarty throwing error—while fanning 12 Pojoaque batters, including striking out the side in the fifth inning.
“It was pretty hard trying to keep your balance up there as you’re pitching,” Tapia said, adding that his “fastball inside” was his most effective pitch.
Tapia also made some noise with his bat in the first game with a trio of doubles, including knocking in the Pintos’ first run in the bottom of the second inning with an RBI two-bagger to the gap in right-centerfield.
After the Elks took the lead in the top of the fourth, Pisz scored in the home half of the frame to knot the score at 2-2.
The score remained tied at 2 until the bottom of the seventh when Mora, who beat out an infield hit to lead off the inning, stole second base and immediately stole third.
“The coaches said if I got on base to try and steal both,” Mora said.
Then with one out, Julius Giron swung at the first pitch and bounced a hot grounder to the right side that Pojoaque’s second baseman couldn’t handle, and Mora trotted home for the game-winning run.
“I knew that if any ball was hit to the right side, I was just gonna go, just take off,” Mora said about his walk-off run. “It was a good feeling to get the win at the end.”
The Pintos put a lot of runners on base during the game, but had trouble getting them around, leaving 10 of them on the bags. “At least eight were in scoring position,” Young noted. “But we got a good performance out of Tapia, and we were able to come through in the seventh and get him a win.”
The Pintos host Miyamura Thursday.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.