Frackers set high bar with thrilling opener

Farmington belts three home runs and scores a walk-off win in team's debut

Karl Schneider
Farmington Daily Times
Frackers' first baseman Andrew Pratt completes an unassisted double play by tagging out California's Marc Ibarra during Thursday's game at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Frackers' debut went about as well as anyone could have hoped for Thursday night at Ricketts Park, as the new collegiate summer league baseball team thrilled the fans in attendance with a walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh inning to top the California Jays 7-6.

The game featured a bit of everything, including strong pitching from the Frackers' Larry Leitha, fielding gems and an array of power hitting with the two teams combining for five home runs in the game.

"First of all, we couldn't have had a better game. Led the game off with a home run, then a crazy steal to win the game at the end. For a baseball fan, that's perfect. I'm pleased. I think it was good," said Richard Neely, the president of the American Amateur Baseball Congress and one of the leaders in bringing the Frackers to Farmington. "It was a good show. A lot of home runs. The players were excited. They were saying how excited they were to play here this summer and said how the ball jumps. They can't believe it."

The only thing missing from the night was a large crowd. Neely estimated 500 fans showed up for the opener, but he said he expected the Thursday night crowd to be sparse and the smallest of the weekend-long series between the two teams.

Two Farmington natives started for the Frackers in the opener. Matt Martin started at second base and hit in the two hole, while Logan Klunder was at third and batted eighth. Both are Piedra Vista alums.

"It's awesome," Martin said of playing at Ricketts Park again. "I'm glad I got to come back and play here. It's more than you could ask for with all home games this season."

The game couldn't have started any better for the Frackers. After they retired the Jays in order in the top of the first inning, Eddy Vasquez, originally from Rio Rancho, led off the bottom of the frame with a home run over the right field wall.

The Farmington Frackers' Eddy Vasquez hits a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning against the California Jays Thursday night at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

"We knew we were going to hit some home runs, but it was awesome with little Eddy there. He's not a very big guy, but it was awesome getting him up there and getting on the board in the first at-bat," Martin said. "It was a good morale booster."

Martin would add a homer of his own in the bottom of the third, a two-run blast to right field. And in the sixth, Dominic DeMarco, a Silver City product, joined in on the home-run party with a two-run shot.

The Frackers' Matt Martin, center, is greeted at home plate by teammates Andrew Pratt, left, and Eddy Vasquez after hitting a two-run home run against the California Jays at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

Staked to a 5-3 lead, Bayfield, Colo., native Zane Phelps came in for the save opportunity for the hosts in the top of the seventh, but he struggled with his command and allowed a three-run home run that gave the Jays their first lead of the game at 6-5.

The Frackers tied the game in the bottom of the frame when Alex Devito, from Northridge, Calif., hit an RBI single to put runners on the corners with two outs.

With Daniel Herrera, a 2014 Volcano Vista graduate now playing at the University of New Mexico, representing the winning run on third base, Frackers coach Jared Holley called for a double steal. Devito took off for second, and when the Jays' pitcher made a move to catch Devito stealing, Herrera sprinted for home.

The throw to the plate was on time, but Herrera somehow avoided the tag, dancing around the Jays catcher to get to the far side of the plate and sneaking his foot in for the winning run.

"Dan left a little bit late, and the throw to home was on time, the catcher was just in front of the plate. I had a good view — the catcher was about 2 feet in front of the plate, so Dan was able to skedaddle on around him," Holley said.

If the Frackers continue to put on a show like they did Thursday night, the scattered crowds should become more and more dense. And based on the reactions Neely received from fans at the opener, there's a good chance it could happen by the end of the weekend.

"I've had probably half a dozen texts since the game ended," Neely said Thursday night. "People saying it was fun, it was clean, their kids could run around and have a good time. That's what we want."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.