Warriors win home tourney

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Kenny Gonzales got his proverbial baptism Saturday night, drenched with the contents of a water cooler at the conclusion of the Warriors Invitational high school baseball tournament, courtesy of his players.

“It’s my first year as head coach; my first win. They got me pretty good,” said Gonzales, who took over the Socorro High School baseball program after serving four years as an assistant coach.

Socorro’s Warriors had just beaten Las Vegas Robertson, 4-3, in the tournament championship game. It was actually their third straight win, having dispatched Laguna Acoma and Sandia Prep’s junior varsity to get there.

“It was a great weekend, coming away with three wins,” said Gonzales, the heir to Alan Edmonson, who resigned last summer to return to Roswell Goddard, his alma mater.

The weather wasn’t so great, with temperatures dipping into the 30s after dark and intermittent moisture throughout the three-day tournament . The opener was delayed for two hours on Thursday due to nearly 60 mph winds in the morning. Things eventually settled down, but it made for a long day.

“We got out of here about 10:45 that night,” Gonzales said.

After a respite from the inclement weather Friday and most of Saturday, conditions turned worse at the tail end. There was rain and snow flurries in the air for parts of the final two games.

One-Two-Three

Socorro (3-2) nearly got bounced to the loser’s bracket Thursday night. To keep things moving along, a two-hour time limit was imposed for each game and it almost expired before Laguna Acoma went to bat in the top of the sixth, trailing 7-3.

A hit, walk and error loaded the bases and prompted Gonzales to lift his starting pitcher, Michael Gonzales, in favor of ace Charles Peralta.

It took Peralta a little time to get warmed up and he walked the first batter to force in a run. The next batter socked a bases clearing double to tie the game, before Peralta stuck out the side.

After a scoreless seventh, Socorro got the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Dominic Montano walked, advanced to third on an infield single and throwing error and scored on Peralta’s base knock through the hole between first and second base.

The Warriors had an easier time of it on Friday, beating Sandia Prep’s JV, 11-6. Daniel Gonzales, coming off arthroscopic surgery on his knee just five weeks earlier, pitched six innings to earn the win.

That set up Saturday’s title tilt between the hosts and Robertson, who beat Sandia Prep’s varsity, last year’s Class 3A state champions, 15-3.

“We expected them to put up a fight,” Gonzales said of the Cardinals. And they did.

Robertson drew first blood and led 2-0 before Socorro tied it in the third inning. The big hit in the frame was a run-scoring triple by Zack Binger, who later came in with the tying run.

In the fourth, the Warriors went ahead on Ignacio Chavez’s two-run single. The Cardinals fought back with a run in the sixth to cut the deficit to 4-3, but that’s all they would get against Peralta, who was tough to solve. The left-hander finished the game with 10 strike outs. He whiffed 17 in the tournament, including the three innings he pitched Thursday night.

“I think the outstanding players of the tournament were our senior pitchers,” Gonzales said.

Ups and Downs

As rewarding as winning the tournament was, a text message Gonzales said he received from Peralta later that night read: “Thanks for making me love the game so much more. Today was a good game. I’m loving baseball.”

“For as little coaches get paid, that’s worth more than any money,” said the coach.

Gonzales said his first few weeks at the helm have gone pretty well.

“They’re coming along,” he said of his players. “I never have to get on the kids. It’s been a pleasure.”

The season has already had some ups and downs. The Warriors lost their starting catcher before the season even started when Jonathan Baca got hurt by a foul tip.

“It broke his thumb. He’s supposed to be out four to six weeks, which is pretty much our whole season,” he said.

Dominic Montano, who was supposed to be the team’s starting second baseman, has since taken over behind the plate.

“So far he’s done a spectacular job, considering he’s never played back there before,” Gonzales said.

With a makeshift lineup, the Warriors lost their season-opening doubleheader at West Las Vegas on March 3. Both games were close. The Dons broke free from a 4-4 tie to win the first game, 8-4, and then took the nightcap 6-5.

Good Wood

For the first time, wood/composite bats are being used for all high school games this year, replacing metal bats. Though the bats are being used on a one-year trial basis, Gonzales said he’d like to see them stick.

“It brings the game of baseball back to high school,” he said. “It’s more strategic, where you run more and steal more. Playing more strategic baseball will teach kids so much more about the game.”

Gonzales said the wood bats made a difference.

“The ball didn’t seem to travel as far and we had to play a little shallower in the outfield,” he said. “It probably sped up the game, not having the big home run and long innings when somebody scores six or seven runs at a time.”

The Warriors played at East Mountain on Tuesday (no results were available at El Defensor Chieftain press time). They play at Santa Fe Indian School on Saturday and will return home to face Belen on March 24.

 


-- Email the author at tslast@dchieftain.com.