The Belen High School baseball team gave this year’s pre-season favorites, the Las Cruces Oñate Knights, a run for their money for the first four innings. But the Knights blew up for nine runs in the fifth and went on to win, 11-1, in five innings at the Eagles’ Nest on Tuesday.
“We have to turn in a complete game,” Eagle head coach Mike Gutierrez said. “We can’t have mental lapses that turn into physical errors.”
The Eagles had their share of mental lapses against Oñate. In the first two innings, Belen base runners were picked off three times by Oñate’s left-handed pitcher Jesse Burciagga.
Michael Garcia was caught off guard to end the first inning. Eric Gregor was picked off at second base after hitting a double to score Michael John Schmock for the first run of the game in the second inning. And Robert Rimorin was tagged out, after a rundown between first and second base, to end the inning.
“We don’t see a lot of lefties, and our guys may have been intimidated by the left-handed pitcher,” Gutierrez said. “If we don’t lose those base runners, we jump on them a little bit and that changes the game.”
Belen senior pitcher Angelo Gabaldon held the Knights to two runs through the first four innings of play but ran into trouble in the fifth.
Gabaldon pitched 4 1/3 innings and struck out five batters. He allowed eight runs, six of which came in the fifth inning. “My arm just got a little tired (in the fifth inning), and it got harder for me to control the ball,” Gabaldon said.
The Knights turned out nine runs on seven hits in the fifth against Gabaldon and Schmock, who came on in relief.
“This game was a lot closer than the score shows,” Gutierrez said. “It’s important for us to get around giving up that big inning.”
Catcher Steve Gutierrez led the way offensively, going 2-2 with singles in his only two at bats. “This was important for Steve (Gutierrez) because he has been struggling of late, and to get two hits off one of the best pitchers in the district will hopefully give him some confidence that will carry over to the rest of the season,” the coach said.
Steve Sanchez, Schmock and Eric Gregor all went 1-2 in the game. Gregor had the only extra-base hit — a double in the second inning.
Oñate out-hit Belen 9-5. With the win, the Knights improved to 12-5, 5-2 in district play. They trail district leading Deming by two games.
The loss dropped the Eagles’ record to 3-10 overall, 0-6 in district play, with six games remaining.
“The goal for us right now is to finish .500 in district, and that could open some doors for us,” Gutierrez said. “With Deming sweeping Oñate and us being in a lot of winnable games, if we don’t flake out on ourselves, we could be in OK shape.”
The Eagles return to the diamond on Saturday, April 13, when they travel to Albuquerque to face the Academy Chargers in the first meeting between the two teams this season.