AP NEWS

Horsemen trample Taos, 15-2, advance to quarterfinals

May 7, 2018 GMT

If one were bold enough to violate social etiquette and arrive casually late to Saturday’s Class 4A Baseball State Tournament game at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex, it would have been like taking a seat in a movie theater as the final credits started rolling.

Game 2 of the St. Michael’s-Taos first-round series started at 11 a.m. For all intents and purposes, it ended about 25 minutes later when cars were still rolling in — and the Horsemen had opened a laughable 10-run lead in the bottom of the first inning.

They went on to a 15-2 rout that completed a series sweep and punched their ticket to next week’s state quarterfinals. There, the Horsemen will meet No. 2 Silver on Thursday afternoon at Rio Rancho High.

Three of the four quarterfinal matchups feature teams from this area as No. 3 Las Vegas Robertson gets Bernalillo and upstart Santa Fe Indian School, a No. 12 seed that beat New Mexico Military in a decisive third game Saturday, faces defending state champion Portales.

St. Michael’s wasted no time with Taos. In the two games, the team scored 15 runs and sent a combined

26 batters to the plate in the first inning. Saturday’s finale fizzled almost immediately as Horsemen starter Sean Latham retired the Tigers in order. His team then drew seven walks to go with four hits and two hit-by-pitches to erupt for a 10-0 lead.

Latham had as many RBIs in his two at-bats during the inning (four) as the Tigers had hits for the game. He drove in a pair with a bases-loaded single up the middle to break a scoreless tie, then tripled home two more in his second trip.

Typically somewhat reserved out on the field, he couldn’t help but throw an aggressive fist pump (or three) in the direction of the Horsemen dugout after sliding in ahead of the tag at third.

“I was fired up in the moment, just excited to share that with those guys,” Latham said.

On the mound, he was steady against a Tigers lineup that did manage three hits and both of its runs in the top of the second.

He had six strikeouts and no walks while being held to a strict 65-pitch limit over his four innings.

A nagging shoulder issue was aggravated last week when the Horsemen visited Robertson for the regular season finale. In that game. as he dove into second base, he jammed his throwing shoulder into the dirt and, up until he rolled out of bed Saturday morning, wasn’t sure what his status was.

“The chance to throw one last game here at home, I couldn’t miss that,” Latham said. “I’d say I’m somewhere around 90 [percent] or 95 percent. It’s not a big deal.”

Aiden Gantt also drove in four with an RBI single in the first and a bases-loaded double in the third. Eighth-grader Derek Martinez scored all three times and had a home run with three runs batted in.

The long ball was his second of the season and capped the scoring in the fourth inning.

Thomas Erickson came on in the fifth after Latham reached his pitch limit to retire the Tigers in order and end their season.

The end was a tough one as Taos pitchers gave up 24 hits in the two games. It wasn’t until they got Jonah Baca out on strikes in his final at bat of the series that they finally got an out on the Horsemen catcher. Until that point, he had reached safely in all seven of his plate appearances.

“I guess, yeah, you could say there’s a different feel to this team going into the playoffs this year,” said St. Michael’s head coach Augie Ruiz. “Last year, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say we kind of backed in. We were playing well going into state, but this year feels more like we had to fight our way in and that, I think, makes a big difference with the approach. Guys are working harder now than ever.”

TOURNAMENT NOTES

SFIS is the only lower-seeded team to move on in the 4A tournament.

The other top seeds all survived, including No. 1 Hope Christian. The Huskies steamrolled Navajo Prep by scores of 30-0 and 16-0. They’ll face No. 8 Cobre in Thursday’s late quarterfinal game at Rio Rancho. … The tournament shifts to UNM’s Santa Ana Star Field for Friday’s semifinals while the championship game will be Saturday at Isotopes Park. … The Santa Fe-area has not seen a team win a baseball state championship since Pojoaque Valley won 3A in 2005. … West Las Vegas was eliminated Saturday, losing to defending champ Portales, 7-3. The Dons were swept, but kept it close both games. … The 5A bracket nearly had its own 12-5 upset, but No. 12 Los Alamos was knocked out in a decisive third game at No. 5 Artesia, losing 5-3 after winning the second game, 4-1.

Contact Will Webber at 505-603-9467 or wwebber@sfnewmexican.com.