KC splits with Shiprock, earns tiebreaker

Navajo Prep, Bloomfield pick up easy sweeps

Jake Newby

SHIPROCK – The Kirtland Central baseball team will control its own destiny down the stretch.

Shiprock's Zander Dale runs past Kirtland Central's  Cochise Sorrelhorse on the way to third base during their game on at Shiprock High School in Shiprock.

Visiting KC split a Thursday doubleheader with Shiprock, and more important, earned the run-differential tiebreaker by one run, which clinched the season series for the Broncos. Shiprock took the first contest 8-5 before losing to the Broncos 12-8 at Shiprock High School.

"Should us and Shiprock end up tied, we have the tiebreaker now," KC coach Bryan Wardroup said. "We go to Thoreau on Tuesday, and as long as we take care of business there, we set up a showdown with Bloomfield for the district championship at our place."

The Broncos (14-9, 6-1 District 1-4A) jumped on Shiprock ace Dylan Begay early in game one with three second-inning runs, but they couldn't keep the lead.

Pedro Tom ripped a two-RBI double as part of a five-run, fourth-inning rally for the Chieftains (18-4, 5-3), who tacked on three more in the bottom of the fifth.

Shiprock coach Alfred Baer pulled Begay in the bottom of the seventh when he got only one out, let in one run and then loaded the bases. He finished with 119 pitches.

"I've seen him throw better," Baer said of Begay. "The strike zone was a little tight for some reason. I thought we threw some strikes that were called balls, and the pitch count got elevated. I rode (Begay) for as long as I could, then went to Cameron Phillips to close it out."

With the bases loaded and the potential game-winning run at the plate, Phillips was clutch in striking out back-to-back Bronco batters to seal the 8-5 win.

KC's late-game breakthrough at the plate carried over into the second game, as the visitors scored at least one run in every inning besides the seventh. The game was tied 5-5 in the fourth before the Broncos managed seven unanswered runs.

Bryson Dowdy was instrumental in the win, going 3 for 5 with five RBI. Zach Van Duren, who broke his nose during Wednesday's practice, singled three times and drove in three runs in the second game. He finished with five RBI on the day.

Wardroup said his team just stuck with its approach.

"We ended up with 20 hits in that second game against very, very quality pitching," he said. "They went up early, hit the balls that were in the zone, took the extra bases — just production up and down the lineup."

Kirtland Central pitcher Randon Blindman goes after Shiprock's Julian Aspaas during their game on Thursday at Shiprock High School in Shiprock.

Down 12-5 in the seventh, the Chieftains rallied back to get three runs back. Down to their last out, Shiprock had a key runner on second, a runner that would have negated KC's coveted run-differential tiebreaker, but Keishaun Aspaas was able to close it out to lift KC to the 12-8 victory.

Baer said he was disappointed in his team's effort on the back end of the doubleheader.

"I told them on Tuesday night that we needed to have a lot of energy today, and we didn't have the five hours worth of energy that we needed," he said. "We had one game's worth of energy, and then some of us just kind of quit wanting to compete."

The Chieftains host Wingate (6-12) for a Thursday doubleheader.

Bloomfield 13, Zuni 0 

Bloomfield 15, Zuni 0 

The Bobcats breezed past Zuni on Thursday at home by final scores of 13-0 and 15-0.

It started on the mound for Bloomfield (16-8, 8-0 District 1-4A), as Corbin Nelson shut the Thunderbirds (4-15) down with a one-hitter in the first game, and Saul Noriega outdid his teammate by tossing a no-hitter in game two.

Bloomfield hit four home runs on the afternoon, with Kenyon Lusk mashing two of them.

Bobcats coach Frank DeHoyos said it was good to see the back end of his rotation come through.

"Both those guys are day three starter-type guys, and it's been a while since they've been on the bump, so it was good to see them do that," DeHoyos said.

The Bobcats host a solid San Juan, Utah, (11-7) team on Tuesday before taking on KC in a critical doubleheader taking place on Thursday at Kirtland Central High School.

Navajo Prep 16, Tohatchi 3

Navajo Prep 18, Tohatchi 6

The Eagles thrashed Tohatchi (7-12) in a doubleheader on Thursday, winning 16-3 and 18-6 at Navajo Prep High School.

Riding a four-game win streak, Prep (9-7-1) will host Rehoboth Christian for a Saturday doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m.

Navajo Prep coach Austin Rochford could not be reached for comment.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577