Wolverines roll past Dora into state semifinals

Texico’s Logan Brown slides under the tag from Dora third baseman Tyler Wilhoit during Monday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal game against Dora at St. Pius High School in Albuquerque. (CNJ staff: Eric Kluth)

By Eric Butler

ALBUQUERQUE — In just its fourth year of baseball, Texico has established itself as an early favorite in the first Class 1A state tournament.

The Wolverines overwhelmed Dora 13-3 at St. Pius High School on Monday in a quarterfinal game ending after five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.

Texico (16-2) plays Magdalena, a 10-3 first-round winner over Penasco, in a 10 a.m. semifinal today at St. Pius.

The second semifinal, at 1 p.m., matches Elida against Roswell Gateway Christian. The Tigers (7-11), playing in the state tournament for the first time since 1975, defeated Gallup Catholic 15-9 while Gateway dispatched McCurdy 8-3 in quarterfinal tilts played at Cibola High School.

The championship game is at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Isotopes Park.

In previous years, Class 1A and 2A schools were combined.

“This is big for us. It’s our fourth year and we practice in sort of a makeshift baseball field,” Texico coach Richard Luscombe said. “To see them come this far is really rewarding.”

The Wolverines, who had beaten Dora in two previous outings this spring, jumped on Coyotes starter Philip Danbom for three runs in the first inning as Joel Maldonado smacked a home run and Zane Anderson sent home another with a double to deep center.

“We spent a ton of time on hitting this week,” Luscombe said. “Rob Hollis, he’s an ex-college player, he came out and worked a lot with us. And it made a lot of difference.”

In the teams’ last meeting, Danbom pitched four scoreless innings in a 9-5 loss to the Wolverines. This time, the sophomore was chased four hitters into the second inning when Theo Marez doubled to score two and give Texico a 6-0 lead.

“He wasn’t able to spot the pitches quite where he wanted to early in this ballgame,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “They seemed to be a little more focused and hit the ball well. You can’t defend balls in the gap.”

The Wolverines roughed up Coyotes reliever Brent Hays, too.

Josh Pena began the Texico third with a bunt single. After a hit batsman and a walk, Marez singled in a run and Logan Brown found the right-center field gap for a triple to plate two more runs for an 11-3 lead.

Before the third was over, junior Aaron Vaughan tagged a Hays pitch for a two-run homer to left.

Aaron’s older brother, Braden, meanwhile found his pace as the Wolverines’ pitcher after some struggles in the first two innings.

Dora (8-12) scored two runs without the benefit of a hit as Braden Vaughan walked two batters and hit two batters.

He also walked another batter in the second, when Dora scored a single run, before he settled down. In a stretch from the third to fifth innings, Vaughan struck out six of the seven Coyotes batters he faced.

“I think the main reason we struggled early on was we were kind of nervous, kind of tight,” Braden Vaughan said. “It took us a while to finally relax and just play baseball.”

Vaughan believes the Wolverines could go even further before all is said and done.

“I’m not sure, but I think that we can go as far as we want to,” he said.

Class 1A state tournament
At Albuquerque
Monday’s quarterfinals
At St. Pius H.S.
Texico 13, Dora 3
Magdalena 10, Penasco 3
At Cibola H.S.
Elida 15, Gallup Catholic 9
Gateway Christian 8, McCurdy 3
Tuesday’s semifinals
At St. Pius
Texico vs. Magdalena, 10 a.m.
Elida vs. Gateway Christian, 1 p.m.
Wednesday’s championship
At Isotopes Park
Semifinal winners, 9:30 a.m.

Texico 13, Dora 3
Texico 346 00 —13 13 2
Dora 210 00 — 3 3 1
Braden Vaughan and Joel Maldonado; Phillip Danbom, Brent Hays (2) and Dan Massey. W — B. Vaughan. L — Danbom. 2B — Texico: Zane Anderson, Theo Marez. 3B — Texico: Logan Brown 2. HR — Texico: Maldonado, Aaron Vaughan. Records — Texico 16-2, Dora 12-8.

Elida 15, Gallup Catholic 9
Elida 143 005 2 —15 18 4
Gallup Catholic 205 002 0 — 9 11 4
Caleb Widner, Wesley Gilmore (3) and Thomas West; Derik Toledo and Brandon Lopez. W — Widner. L — Toledo. 2B — Elida: Cade Cathey 2, Trenton Chenault, Gilmore 2. Gallup Catholic: Adrian Sandoval. 3B — Elida: Ever Varela 2, Chenault. HR — Elida: Thomas West. Records — Elida 7-11, Gallup Catholic 6-6.