LOS LUNAS — It only took the Texico Wolverines 11 innings to make it to the finals.
Texico beat Gallup Catholic 12-0 on Thursday in the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament. The game ended after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
The defending-champion Wolverines mercy-ruled Penasco 12-2 in six innings Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
Third-seeded Texico will face top-seeded Gateway Christian in the finals at 8:30 a.m. today at Isotopes Stadium in Albuquerque.
Texico coach Richard Luscombe said playing two mery-rule-shortened games works in the Wolverines’ advantage.
“Both of their games have gone seven innings,” Luscombe said. “Neither one of our pitchers got their pitch counts very high. Both of their kids were up around 100-plus pitches.”
Gateway Christian beat Magdalena 8-2 in the first round and Cimarron 5-0 on Thursday to advance to the finals.
“This is the game you want to get to when you start playing,” Luscombe said. “Just to be here is a plus; not that we’re not going to try to win. But there were some times this season I was beginning to wonder if we would even get (to the playoffs).”
The Wolverines (14-7) took control in the first inning on Thursday. Senior Aaron Vaughan hit an RBI triple, scoring senior Zane Anderson. Senior Zach Morgan hit a single to score Vaughan.
Texico added a run in the second, six in the third and three in the fourth.
Vaughan struck out eight batters in four innings of shutout ball to pick up the win.
“He did a really good job for us,” Luscombe said of Vaughan.
Sophomore Jesse Walthers had two doubles, a home run and four RBI. Junior Theo Marez had two singles and two RBI, and Anderson had a single, a triple and two RBI.
“I think we’re just getting hits in crucial situations,” Luscome said of his team’s offense. “And we’ve got enough speed to turn hits into extra-base hits.”
Texico’s offense has been potent all season, scoring more than 14 runs per game, but Luscome said even he is a bit surprised considering the Wolverines have banged out 24 runs against some of Class 1A’s best teams.
“The back half of our lineup hadn’t been doing a lot,” Luscombe said. “But they’ve been doing well (in the tournament). Jesse Walthers was hitting in our eight spot, and he had two doubles and a home run.”
Luscome said he does not expect the finals to be another mercy-rule game.
“We’re gonna have to play real well,” Luscome said. “They remind me of us, really. They can hit and they’ve got some good pitching.”
The Texico baseball program has been in existence for only five years, yet one more win would give it back-to-back championships.
“It’s not a shot in the dark,” Luscombe said. “We’ve got a lot of good, young kids coming up as well.”