FARMINGTON — Even after Rusty Evans took the job as head baseball coach at Las Cruces’ Centennial High School last fall, he hoped that he would again cross paths with Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools.
But not even Evans could have anticipated that would happen during the Eagles’ first season.
Evans brings No. 14 Centennial High (13-13) into Ricketts Park tonight to face his alma mater, No. 3 Farmington High (18-8). Evans — a first-year head coach at a first-year high school — is excited for his team to play at the field he called home for twenty years.
“I grew up on Farmington baseball and have talked to our guys about it all year. This is a chance to show them what I am talking about and to see where we are relative to a great team in Farmington,” Evans said. “I told our guys not to get enamored with the grandstands, the big press box and the scoreboard. I told them the dimensions of the field but reminded them the bases are still 90 feet apart, like any other park.”
Evans, a 1996 Farmington High graduate, has had his share of glory at Ricketts Park. For 10 years, he was an assistant coach for the Scorpions, and he was on staff when Farmington High won four state championships.
Farmington High head coach Sean Trotter is happy to see Evans get a chance to return to his hometown for a weekend of baseball.
“I am excited for him and glad he is getting to bring his team up,” Trotter said. “For him to go down there in his first year and get to the playoffs with a young group says a lot.”
When Mike McGaha took the head coaching job at Piedra Vista before the 2010 season, Evans joined the team as McGaha’s pitching and catching coach.
During that time, Evans coached two NCAA Division I signees: Texas Tech’s Dominic Moreno and Jake McCasland, who plays for the University of New Mexico.
Both of the catchers Evans coached at Piedra Vista — Morgan McCasland and Kholeton Sanchez— are currently playing college baseball, with hopes of being drafted. The Panthers also won the 4A state title all three years Evans was a member of the staff.
“It is pretty cool. Farmington has a baseball legacy. When you look at the baseball people who have come out of the Farmington baseball system, it is pretty impressive,” said McGaha. “It is cool to see Evans be a head coach in 4A this year and then up in 5A next year when Centennial moves up. He is helping continue that legacy.”
When Evans first took the job at Centennial, he and McGaha talked about setting realistic goals.
“When we first talked about it and he asked me about the goals I had set for PV when I first came in — which was obviously different situation — I just told him he could never take any goal too lightly,” McGaha said. “Write down every single goal. Include a come-from-behind victory. When you accomplish that, mark it off. You are trying to eventually meet every goal through the season. The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind was telling him to try to go .500 in his first year. I think he has done those things, and it is a testimony to the goals he set. It is pretty impressive how he has been able to stick it out.”
Still, not even McGaha could have imagined Evans’ team reaching state in its first year.
“I can’t even imagine the obstacles of having no seniors and no junior varsity at a first-year school like that,” he said.
Evans hopes his group of players keep working hard all weekend, regardless of the score.
Trotter was able to scout Evans’ group last weekend when the Eagles faced Deming High. He said the team could present problems if the Scorps don’t come prepared to play.
“We got to watch two of their games. It is a small sample of their season, but they are athletic, and they have kids who can run very well,” Trotter said. “The meat of their order can hit, too. After an eye-test, I don’t think their pitching is as seasoned as they would hope for, but they are going to compete because they are a good club that does things well.”
Evans still has family in Farmington and is looking forward to reuniting both with them and with his baseball families.
“I get to do a little catching up and can reminisce about what was and how things are going,” Evans said. “But the spirit of competition will be there, and I will be trying to beat the guys in the other dugout. We will have some fun and see what happens.”
John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.