For three innings, the Belen Eagles battled the Los Lunas Tigers tooth and talon in a high school baseball game played Tuesday in Belen. But in the end, the Cats bludgeon the Birds, 17-0 in five innings.
Los Lunas nearly batted around twice in the fifth inning — sending 17 batters to the plate — producing 13 runs on 10 hits.
“We were toe-to-toe with them,” said Belen head coach Mike Gutierrez. “Then they started to really put the ball in play.”
Los Lunas right fielder Brian Holmes had two doubles in the inning, each knocking in a run.
“It took us a while to get in rhythm — to finally put the ball in play with some consistency,” he said.
Belen senior Angelo Gabaldon kept the Tigers off beat through the first three innings. He gave up four hits, including a wind-blown single off the bat of J.D. Garcia that produced the Tigers’ first run in the second inning.
With two out and Matt Baca on second base after doubling, Garcia hit a fly ball into a strong breeze blowing in from left field that appeared as if it would be a routine out to end the inning. But the ball dropped in front of Belen left fielder Randy Case and between shortstop Michael Garcia and third baseman Bobby Baca, and the run scored easily.
Belen nearly tied the game in the top of the third inning off Tiger starter Carlos Castillo. With one out, Gabaldon, who had two of the Eagles’ four hits in the game, got a hometown hop over first baseman James Alarcon’s head for a single.
After Gabaldon stole second base, left-handed hitter Michael John Schmock laced a shot down the left field line. Gabaldon was well around third base and Schmock was cruising into second with an apparent RBI double before it was realized the umpire had called the ball foul.
“That may have taken the wind out of our sails a little bit, but we weren’t going to win the game with one run,” Gutierrez said.
Schmock ended up striking out. Then Los Lunas shortstop Josh Hernandez saved a run when the next batter, Steve Sanchez, hit a grounder deep in the hole which Hernandez was able to knock down, holding Sanchez to an infield single and keeping Gabaldon from scoring.
Castillo struck out Eric Sonnenberg to end the threat and complete his stint on the mound for the Tigers. The Tiger senior fanned four, walked two and gave up three hits in three innings of work.
The end was near for Belen’s starter as well. Alacron sent Gabaldon’s first pitch of the fourth inning the opposite way on a line and over the right field fence.
“We got through the order a couple of times, and I think we figured him out,” said Tiger head coach Steve Contreras. “James Alarcon’s home run, for some reason, kind of lifted everyone else’s confidence. Usually a big hit will do that.”
Los Lunas added two more runs in the inning to chase Gabaldon and take a 4-0 lead.
The Tigers put the game away in the fifth, pounding three Belen pitchers for 10 hits.
Los Lunas finished with 18 hits, with every Tiger in the lineup getting at least one. Holmes and Larry Sutherland each went 3 for 4 at the plate. Alacron was 2 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs.
Christian Rael and Josh Hernandez each pitched an inning to close out the win for the Tigers.
Tuesday’s contest was the Tigers’ final pre-district game. They’ll enter Saturday’s District 3-5A doubleheader at Las Cruces High with a 5-4 overall record.
“We started off 1 and 3, but we’ve won four out of the last five now — two in a row (including an 11-4 win over Valley) where we actually hit the ball pretty well. So I think we’re going into district with a little bit of confidence,” Contreras said.
“We feel like we have a real good chance of taking the district title this year,” Holmes said of the Tigers, who were district runners-up a year ago. “We have a good group of guys, and we’re starting to come together as a team.”
As for Belen, coach Gutierrez, who once was head coach at Los Lunas, wasn’t overly concerned with the loss. “That club right there is one of the ones that’s favored to win not only their district, but to make a run at the (Class) 5A trophy,” he said of the Tigers. “I have to give credit where credit is due.
“Beating Los Lunas doesn’t take us to the post-season,” he continued. “We’ve got to get the Academys and the Demings. Those are the games that we need to get to take us to post-season play.”
Belen finished up its pre-district slate on Thursday with a 6-4 loss at home to Albuquerque High. Three unearned runs in the second inning proved to be the Eagles undoing.
The Eagles enter Saturday’s District 3-4A season opening doubleheader at Las Cruces Oñate with a 3-4 record.
Los Lunas 010 3(13)–17 18 0
Belen 000 0 0 –0 4 3
Pitching–LL: Carlos Castillo and Travis Ferrel, Christian Rael (4), Jose Hernandez (5) and Castillo. BHS: Angelo Gabaldon, Bobby Baca (4), Steve Sanchez (5), Eric Sonnenberg (5) and Steven Gutierrez
Win: Castillo Loss: Gabaldon
Batting leaders: Los Lunas–Brian Holmes 3-4, 3 R, 2 RBI, 3 doubles; Larry Sutherland 3-4, 1 R, 2RBI; James Alacron 2-4, 3 R, 3 RBI, HR; Josh Hernandez 2-3, 2 R; Christian Rael 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI; Travis Ferrel 2-4, 2 R; J.D. Garcia 2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI BHS–Angelo Gabaldon 2-3; Steve Sanchez 1-1; Michael Garcia 1-2.
Records: LL 5-4 BHS 3-3