At 1-3 out of the gate in the 2002 high school baseball season, the Los Lunas Tigers are right where they were a year ago. The Tigers are hoping to jump-start their season at this week’s Rio Rancho Invitational, just as they did last year.
“We started out like this last year,” said senior second sacker J.D. Garcia, “then we picked it up during the Rio Rancho tournament and started a 10-game win streak and went on from there. Hopefully, that’s what we’ll do again this year.”
Last year, the Tigers carried the momentum of their 10-game win streak into the District 3-5A season. They ended up settling for second place in the standings, but they earned a berth in the state quarterfinals for the first time in 17 years.
The Tigers beat Roswell, 1-0, on Thursday to start the Rio Rancho tourney.
Josh Hernandez hit a solo shot in the sixth inning for the only run of the game against Roswell. He also was the winning pitcher, allowing just two hits and striking out 12 while pitching a complete game.
The Tigers played St. Pius X in a semifinal game Friday (no score was available at News-Bulletin press time). If they won, it would setup a possible rematch of last year’s final against the host Rams, won by the Tigers, 4-3.
Los Lunas head coach Steve Contreras said last year’s win over the Rams was a pivotal point in the season for his team. Not only did they knock off one of the top teams in the state, they came together as a team.
“Last year it was good for us,” the coach said. “It was a time our team got to spend a little bit of time together. And last year it was a turning point where we gained a lot of confidence and comaraderie and began to mesh. Hopefully we can be in that situation again.”
On Tuesday, the Tigers traveled to Albuquerque’s La Cueva High School to face the Bears — the team that knocked them out of the state playoffs last season with a 10-4 win in a regional playoff game at Las Vegas, NM.
The Bears were the better team again on Tuesday, tagging a 15-8 loss on Los Lunas.
La Cueva jumped on Los Lunas left-hander Christian Rael — the Tigers fourth different starting pitcher in as many games — and led, 7-2, after after two innings.
Los Lunas tallied four times in the third to close to within 7-6, but the Bears pulled ahead again and put the game away with four runs in the sixth.
The Bears socked three home runs, two by junior Andrew Salas.
Senior first baseman James Alarcon homered for Los Lunas. His two-run blast in the fifth got the Tigers back in the game, 11-8.
Alarcon finished 3 for 4 at the plate with four RBIs and two runs scored; Matt Baca was 2 for 3 with an RBI; Rael was 2 for 4 with two runs; and Garcia was 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs.