Saturday’s Knothole Day game at Ricketts Park was only beginning in the top of the sixth inning when Farmington High held a 4-0 lead on the three-time defending district and state champion Panthers. That is when PV began a brilliant comeback that led to a 10-inning slugfest that ended with the Panthers defeating their crosstown rival Scorpions.
A three-run sixth inning and a game-tying run in the top of the seventh sent the game into extra innings. PV senior Jacy Cave broke the tie in the ninth inning with a solo home run, but FHS senior Austin Davis answered with an RBI-double in the bottom of the ninth to plate Matt Huffhines, keeping the Scorpions’ hopes of a district title alive.
But a five-run top of the 10th inning fueled by four walks and three hits was enough padding for the Panthers to hold onto a 10-8 win that gave PV its fourth consecutive District 1-4A championship.
“Man, what a good stinking battle between these two schools,” said PV head coach Mike McGaha. “I was just sorry somebody had to lose. But, really, I felt like it was the game nobody wanted to win.”
Farmington High head coach Sean Trotter said it was painful to come away with a loss after such a grueling game.
“Anybody that paid admission certainly got their money’s worth,” Trotter said. “Tip your hat to PV. It was two good clubs going at it. The season series is 2-2 now with hopefully one more to go.”
McGaha wasn’t satisfied with his team’s overall performance and felt they were bailed out by the four walks issued in the 10th inning.
“It was anticlimactic. It just was. I feel like I am in a hard spot because I am very proud of these kids for the work they have put in.
I don’t think they really know that, but this was not good enough for us,” McGaha said. “I am not talking about the win. We got the win done against who I thought, going into the game, was the top team in New Mexico in our classification. We didn’t put ourselves in a position to be successful most of the game. If Farmington doesn’t go out and walk the world there, what happens in that situation?”
Though the Panthers (17-9, 5-1 District 1-4A) struggled to execute early, the game epitomized McGaha’s motto of “Never too high, never too low.” It’s a phrase that has carried the PV dugout through tough times and state championships during McGaha’s three years coaching the team.
“We are just trying to fill the shoes that were left behind. It’s all in the program that we believe in,” said PV senior and starting pitcher Ian Doughty. “We’re trying to make it a tradition at PV.”
Farmington High (18-8, 5-1) struck first in the game as Doughty struggled a bit on the mound. RBI singles from Ethan Spellbring and Frankie Gutierrez scored Lance Lee and Brad Betz in the second inning.
The Scorps extended the lead to 3-0 in the third inning when Lee hit an RBI-single of his own to plate Brandon Padilla.
An inning later, Farmington catcher Elias Blackwater laced a double to score Spellbring and give the Scorps a 4-0 lead.
The Scorpions played clean defense behind starting pitcher Matt Huffhines for five innings as he worked out of trouble in spots by pitching to contact and letting his defense work.
PV catcher Zach Ahlgrim started the PV rally in the sixth inning with a one-out single. Doughty then reached on a fielding error by Scorpions’ first baseman Beamer Wick. Dillan Vigil then grounded into a fielder’s choice, giving PV runners on first and third base with two outs when Kody Russell stepped up with a two-run double.
One batter later, Gunner Archuleta came through with an RBI-single to cut the Farmington lead to just 4-3.
Archuleta played a huge role in the game, with his base hit in the sixth and by pitching three innings of no-hit baseball from the fifth through seventh innings in relief of Doughty.
“Gunner Archuleta was probably the difference in the game. Without him, we don’t win a district title,” McGaha said. “That is tough to say because a lot of things happened, but I really believe that. He jumped up at the plate after not having hardly any varsity at-bats and knocks in an RBI-single with two outs, something we haven’t done very well all year. He was an absolute spark. He gave us a glimmer of hope that we could get this thing done.”
Archuleta threw five shutout innings against Farmington High during a 7-2 loss earlier in the non-district season before the Scorpions got to him, but Archuleta said he had never pitched in a bigger game.
“I never really felt like I did before coming into a game and throwing. To come in and throw strikes and not give up runs was great,” he said. “It was pretty big for me and the team. They got me going.”
PV chased Huffhines off the mound during the sixth inning. The Scorpions’ senior lefty gave up nine hits and was charged with three runs. He walked two and struck out one.
“He did a great job. He gave us a chance to win. We kicked the ball around a couple of times, and they score three runs in the sixth. If not for those few mishaps, Huffhines finishes the game,” Trotter said.
PV scored the game-tying run in the seventh inning after Ahlgrim again got a rally going with a one-out single. Doughty then doubled to get Ahlgrim’s courtesy runner Satchel Baker to third base. A Vigil groundball to shortstop was deep enough and Baker got a good enough jump to score without even soliciting a throw home.
Vigil was out at first for the second out of the inning, but the damage was done.
Archuleta slammed the door on Farmington in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
“We just didn’t finish the game in regulation. We couldn’t get it done,” Trotter said.
The two teams played a scoreless eighth inning and the heart of the Panthers’ order was due up to begin the ninth.
Jacy Cave hit a solo home run off Farmington pitcher Frankie Gutierrez, who pitched three innings for Farmington. Cave’s home run led off the inning and gave PV its first lead of the game at 5-4. It was an absolute laser of a line drive that quickly got over the left field fence.
“I was just looking for my pitch to hit the whole time. I wasn’t going to miss it,” Cave said. “I have been seeing the ball well lately, and the whole team is coming around with our bats.”
Gutierrez was relieved by Lee on the mound four batters later after Gutierrez issued a walk and a single. Lee worked quickly to retire PV without surrendering another run.
Cave, PV’s No. 2 starting pitcher, then came on to relieve Nate Dominguez on the mound for Piedra Vista.
Farmington answered to tie the game 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning when an Austin Davis double scored Huffhines, who led off the inning with a walk.
Farmington couldn’t get Davis across the plate in the ninth as Cave got Lee to strike out to end the inning.
Lee struggled on the mound for Farmington in the 10th inning.
Matt Martin walked to leadoff the inning, followed by a Jeremy Johnson single. Cave also singled to load the bases, and a walk to Ahlgrim gave PV a 6-5 lead. Lee then walked Doughty to bring in another PV run.
Lee was then relieved by Padilla, who walked Vigil to give PV another run.
Another Archuleta RBI-single gave PV a 9-5 lead, before a throwing error by Farmington catcher Elias Blackwater allowed another PV run to score to make it 10-5 heading to the bottom of the 10th.
“I think the real positive was there wasn’t any quit. We came off the field after giving up five in the 10th, and you could see some pain a little bit, but they jumped right back on the horse and went back to work and fought back,” Trotter said.
Cave recorded a quick out to start the bottom of the 10th but issued a walk to Spellbring to start the Scorps’ last-chance rally. Gutierrez then singled and Blackwater hit a stand-up double to score both Spellbring and Gutierrez and cut the PV lead to 10-7.
Padilla also came through with an RBI-single after Huffhines grounded out for the second out of the inning. Davis drew a walk, and Wick singled to give the Scorps the bases loaded with two outs trailing 10-8, but Cave struck out pinch-hitter Colby Nelson looking. Nelson was hitting for Lee, who was 2-for-5 in the game with an RBI and a run scored.
“We just fell short. I am certainly proud of the fight in the dugout all day, though,” Trotter said.
Doughty wasn’t sharp in his four-plus innings of work starting for PV. The Pepperdine University commit gave up six hits and was charged with four runs. He walked four Scorpion batters and hit another with a pitch while recording just one strike out.
“I definitely didn’t have anywhere close to my best stuff on the mound. I really need to be a lot better,” he said.
Doughty’s struggles didn’t cost PV in the long run, and McGaha’s strategy to have all four of his top pitchers available on Saturday paid off.
“I said a week ago this would be this kind of game. We wanted to make sure we had all four of them ready to go,” McGaha said.
The two teams will wait to see their state playoff fates at the selection show Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s win should solidify PV as the No. 1 seed in the state as the Panthers chase a fourth consecutive state title.
Albuquerque Academy swept St. Pius X High School in a doubleheader (9-1, 6-4) on Saturday to take the District 5-4A title. The Chargers’ wins should help Farmington High secure the No. 3 seed behind Goddard and ensure the two San Juan County powerhouses end up on opposite sides of the bracket.
If PV and Farmington meet again, both squads hope it is on May 18 at Lobo Field, where the 4A state title game will be held this season.
“I hope the seeding committee does a good job, and you hope PV and FHS are on opposite sides of the bracket, going at it in two weeks at Lobo Field for the championship,” Trotter said. “I have seen everybody in the state, and I truly believe that there is a pretty good chance that showdown will happen. There are small goals along the way, but the main goal is to win the blue trophy that matters most. This loss hurts a lot for our guys. All we can do now is go out and compete for a state championship.”
John Livingston can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.