By Arnie Leshin
It was a mixture of everything, the nasty weather that brought rain, wind and a chilly late Tuesday afternoon, and then there was the support for St. Michael’s baseball team at Christian Brothers Athletic
And it all brought what the home team was striving for, a third straight Class 2-3A baseball championship via the 11-7 route. With only a district contest at Santa Fe Indian School Thursday, the Horsemen wrapped up the title at 9-2 and are 16-9 heading into the postseason.
“We had a more experienced team last year,” said head coach Augustin Ruiz,” but this team has come together and applied something very important, chemistry. We’re also getting pretty good pitching and key hits.”
This came after the split at the Cardinals back in early April, and Robertson is now 12-7 overall and 6-4 in district, but it’s the Horsemen who will probably get the second seed behind Albuquerque Sandia Prep, who they lost to twice in non-district play.
But the weather wasn’t as nearly as bad this time around. There was even a lightning delay that joined with the cold, the rain, the wind, and by dusk time, at least St. Michael’s had yet another district title.
On what was senior day, the Horsemen had full support from seniors, parents, and other students. They trailed once at 3-1 after scoring once in the first inning, only to have the Cards tally three times in the third.
But the five gutsy innings thrown by St. Michael’s junior right-hander Jackson Heath and a seven-run surge in a two-inning stretch put the home guys on top 8-3 and then 10-3.
It was a quality win for a team that had graduated seven seniors, left just two, and pieced together enough of the chemistry to carry it from a top 3A seed last year into the another bid for state honors.
“Our guys played well,” Ruiz said, “In a game that began with some 15-25 mph wind that gushed into the 40s and made the 50-degree temperature feel 10 degrees cooler.”
He added that neither his team or Robertson hadn’t dealt with inclement weather like this all spring.
Said St. Michael’s senior shortstop Santiago Martinez, who homered: “Let’s say we prepare like this for every game, and once we get kicked back, we just have to stay in the same mindset and not let anything go.”
As for Heath, in the early going he managed to battle his way out of the one out runner at third base situation that ensued with the help of a some poor Cardinal baserunning.
Heath said he didn’t get a good grip on infield teammate John Fernandez’ grip on a chopper hit to him and realized his throw was going to bounce in the dirt at home plate the moment he released it.
But the Horsemen had other things working, as in key hitting and holding Robertson to mostly singles. After they cut the deficit to 3-2, they took over at the plate, with Martinez’ three-run home run in the fourth that he parked around the left field pole bringing a 8-3 advantage.
“I knew the wind had shifted,” Martinez said, “and that helped give my fly ball a boost. We talk about those things in the dugout, and I just went out there and played with confidence.”
The Cardinals scored once in the fifth, but Heath settled down and kept them in check the rest of the way.
Thus, it was all in one big burst, the weather conditions, the home field support, even the lightning delay, that made it a winning day on the diamond for Ruiz’ team.