After seven consecutive postseason berths, it is unlikely East Mountain High School’s baseball team will make it to the state tournament this year.
East Mountain suffered its 11th straight loss after getting swept in last Saturday’s home doubleheader against the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) Colts, 12-2 and 13-2.
With a final twin bill this Saturday at Portales, one of the top 4A teams in the state, the T’Wolves are on the verge of experiencing their worst record in a decade.
“I’m not surprised by the results of this year,” East Mountain head coach Dave Naylor said after Saturday’s defeats. “It is a little frustrating but you’ve got to look at the cards you’re dealt and deal with it, this is part of rebuilding.”
The T’Wolves lost seven starters from last year’s squad and continue to be challenged in a Class 4A district that includes NMMI, Portales, and last year’s state runner-up, Ruidoso.
“The district we play in is tough,” Naylor said. “If we were in 3A I think we’d be going to the state tournament again.”
East Mountain pitcher John Spanjers struggled in the first game of last Saturday’s doubleheader, walking eight batters, hitting a pair and striking out two while surrendering 6 runs before being replaced by Hunter Harlan.
“It wasn’t up to par with how I usually pitch,” Spanjers said, adding that his arm was sore after throwing more than 100 pitches in his last outing.
The T’Wolves got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning when Anthony McKenna laid down a bunt and the Colts third baseman threw the ball over first base allowing 2 East Mountain runners to score on the error.
Alejandro Taylor-Wright pitched five innings of the second game and kept his team within striking distance before the wheels came off during an 8-run sixth inning for NMMI.
“Things were going all right, then everything sorta fell apart,” Taylor-Wright said.
Offensively, East Mountain had its share of base runners in both games but struggled to get them across home plate.
“We hit the ball today, I was pretty happy with the amount of times we put the ball in play,” Naylor said. “We just couldn’t string anything together to gain any momentum, and again, the lack of focus on defense ended up hurting us, but they never quit.”
Naylor, who’s also the school’s athletic director and cross country coach, is now in his 12th year at the helm of the baseball team.
He spent years building the program, piloting the team to its first-ever postseason berth in 2009 and winning the Class 2A state title in 2012.
He’s seen the highs and lows, and knows what it’ll take to get his young team—there isn’t a senior on the squad—back on the winning track.
“We have a lot of things heading in the right direction,” Naylor said. “For the better part of this season we’ve really been trying to play for the next couple of years, in two years these guys could be pretty darn good.”