By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Elida may well come down this road again. And so might the Tigers’ opponent Tuesday in the semifinal round of the Class 1A tournament.
Two very young squads faced off at St. Pius high school in Albuquerque for the right to play for the 1A state championship. And it was the slightly younger team of Gateway Christian that knocked off Elida 15-5 to earn that right.
After the loss, Elida coach Jimmy Dale Ward was hardly rueful over the state tournament experience — which included a 15-9 quarterfinal victory over Gallup Catholic.
“You can’t imagine. Thirty years since we’ve been here, it’s a great feeling just to get here. And to win that first game was awesome,” Ward said. “We’re proud.”
Gateway Christian (19-4) blew scoreless game wide open in the bottom of the second. After Elida starter Tom Sullivan retired the first two Warriors, Gateway rallied for eight runs.
Elida (8-12) cracked the scoreboard in the third when Dylan Radcliff doubled into the right-centerfield gap to score Cade Cathey. But the Warriors matched that – and more – by pushing across five more runs in the bottom of the third for a 13-1 advantage.
The strikeout was the predominant way, in fact the only way, that Gateway pitcher Joe Camp retired Elida batters over the first three innings. Camp recorded nine Ks in that span before the Tigers rallied for four runs in the top of the fourth.
In the fourth, Wesley Gilmore and Cathey both stroked doubles for Elida and Radliff bounced a single into right for another run. But that still left Elida behind 13-5.
After the game Ward wished that his team had found the key to hitting Camp a little earlier.
“Oh goodness yes. We finally got to him a little bit, it was about time,” Ward said. “We were slow getting around on him. He’s a good pitcher, though.
“They’re a well-coached team,” he added. “We got beat by a good team.”
Gateway Christian entered Tuesday’s contest with no seniors on its roster. Elida, meanwhile, had one senior — Radcliff — and one junior, catcher Thomas West, on the field for the semifinal.
“Elida’s young too. We played them a doubleheader earlier in the year and beat them two times, but they were both close games,” Gateway Christian coach Rick Rapp said. “I imagine we’ll be battling with them over the next several years.”
The Tigers’ coach was completely amenable to that idea.
“We got some experience. We’ll be back,” Ward said.