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Santa Fe Indian School gets first district win against St. Michael’s

April 8, 2019

It was a moment lost in the glow of a strong start for the Santa Fe Indian School baseball program.

While the Braves enjoyed the spoils of starting pitcher James Bridges’ performance in the opening game of a District 2-3A doubleheader against St. Michael’s at Christian Brothers Athletic Complex on Saturday, they also achieved a milestone with a 6-1 win. For the first time, SFIS won a district game against the Horsemen. Whether it was the first time the program won a game against St. Michael’s is another matter, but it was more than just a special moment.

The win was the eighth in a row for the Braves, improving their district record to 4-0. The Braves’ undefeated district season and the winning streak ended in Game 2 when St. Michael’s sophomore Joaquin Armijo fired a four-hit complete game for a 3-0 win.

Still, the Braves (11-3 overall, 4-1 in 2-3A) are enjoying their best start in 3A and a season in more than a decade. And they got to check an item off their list of goals — a win over the Horsemen.

Third-year SFIS head coach Jude Torres credited the leadership from his 10 seniors.

“These seniors, and both James and [catcher Kye Aguilar], I rely a lot on them to be leaders all that time,” Torres said. “So I am really happy about that.”

Bridges did his part to shut down the Horsemen, as he consistently got ahead of hitters with his fastball. It wasn’t until he gave up consecutive singles, then a walk to load the bases with one out in the seventh that Bridges showed signs of wearing down. He gave up an unearned run on five hits over 61/3 innings, striking out nine Horsemen while walking only one — the truest sign that he is harnessing command of his pitches.

He struggled with control last year.

“Last year, I wasn’t new to pitching, but I wasn’t used to pitching in high school games,” Bridges said. “I worked on it over the summer, and I became more consistent. I have a couple of new pitches, and I added some heat to my ball.”

Bridges’ new-and-improved fastball was evident as he struck out the side to end the first inning. St. Michael’s (7-7, 1-2) hit the ball out of the infield only twice through the first four innings and recorded three of their base hits in the final two frames. The Braves benefited from errors by the Horsemen, who threw the ball around the field for much of Game 1.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Aguilar singled, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by Horsemen catcher C.J. Saiz, then scored on Saiz’s passed ball. Aguilar continued his assault on St. Michael’s pitching when he launched Thomas Erickson’s second pitch in the fourth over the left-field fence for a lead-off home run that broke a 1-all tie.

Aguilar said he woke up believing he was going to hit a homer and even muttered it to himself as he stepped up to the plate.

“I rolled into here, and I was thinking, ‘I’m gonna hit a homer,’ ” Aguilar said. “I don’t know why. I had confidence in myself.”

SFIS added two more runs in the inning with a two-out rally, thanks to a Jason Abeyta single sandwiched around a pair of hit batsmen to load the bases. Francisco Pino legged out an RBI infield hit to shortstop Marcos Leyba, who made the situation worse with a low throw that skipped past first baseman Andrew Salazar and allowed Abeyta to round third to make it 4-1.

“That’s indicative of a young team,” Horsemen head coach Augie Ruiz said. “These guys are working on that. We’re dealt with the hand we have, and we’re going to play with it. They’re going to be all right.”

That was definitely the case in Game 2, as Armijo shrugged off a rough outing against Eunice in which he lasted only two innings in a 19-15 win at the Portales Tournament on March 30. It wasn’t easy, though, as he pitched around errors in the first and third inning and a lead-off single in the second to keep the Braves off the scoreboard.

Armijo was helped by over-aggressive baserunning by SFIS in the third, as Anders Pecos reached base when Horsemen third baseman Thomas Romero threw his groundball into right field. Pecos tried to get to third base but Derek Martinez’s throw beat Pecos by a couple of steps.

Otherwise, Armijo was in control of the game, and he showed he was the equal of Bridges — even if it was a game later.

“When you’re behind in the count, it backs you into a corner where you have to throw a strike and give them a chance [to hit the ball],” Armijo said. “When you’re ahead of the count, you don’t have to do that as much and you can get them to chase.”

The Horsemen gave Armijo just enough run support as they continued to search for the right lineup to unlock their offense. They used a walk, a passed ball and an RBI single by Jack Boggs to open the scoring in the second inning. Daniel Martinez roped an RBI double in the fourth, then scored on Leyba’s single to make it 3-0.

“We made some tweaks to the lineup in the second game, and it seemed to work,” Ruiz said. “It’s still a work in progress, but, like I told the guys afterward, we are trying to make a team that, if we bring a guy off the bench, he’s just as good as the starter. That is the mindset we are trying to have, and all the guys are capable of that.”

So too, do the Braves for once. They just didn’t realize how significant that was.

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