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Eagles' season ends in first round of playoffs

Karl Schneider
kschneider@daily-times.com
Baseball

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Prep baseball team’s season came to a close today.

The Eagles were bounced from the 3A state tournament with a 20-0 loss in five innings to Estancia on the road.

Prep trailed 4-0 after the third inning, but in the fourth and fifth, the No. 13 Eagles (9-10) struggled to make routine plays, which allowed the fourth-seeded Bears (17-4) to blow the game open.

“I thought we were both pretty even through the first few innings, but in the fourth and fifth, they made the routine plays, and we didn’t,” Prep head coach Austin Rochford said.

Prep has made the state tournament field each of the last three seasons, but each time, the Eagles were eliminated in the first round.

Trevor Smith got the start on the mound for Prep and pitched the first three innings. Rochford said Smith did a good job of keeping the ball low in the strike zone. Rochford elected to pull Smith from the game for a fresh arm rather than letting the sophomore wear himself out.

Anthony Pioche-Lee came on in relief and pitched well in the fourth and fifth, but that’s when the mistakes piled up for the Eagles.

Rochford said that he thinks part of the issue for his team was its inexperience playing against top competition like Estancia.

“I don’t think they’ve been put in that situation before. We want to get them out of their comfort zone and playing at a higher level of baseball,” he said. “I think next year we’ll work on getting a better schedule and tougher competition.”

Rochford said the Eagles performed well at the plate, led by Pioche-Lee’s 2 for 3 day.

Prep loses just three players — Dalton Shirley, Aaron Robertson and Kordel Dugi — to graduation. Rochford said Shirley and Robertson played well in their final game, while Dugi was unable to make the trip because of school testing.

Rochford said he is excited about what the Eagles will be able to do with the bulk of the roster returning next season.

“Hopefully next year, we can build off of the younger guys seeing the seniors play in their last game, so when they’re seniors, they’ll be ready to go,” Rochford said. “All we need is a few more pieces to the puzzle. There are some things we can fix and adjustments we can make, and once we get that puzzle completed, we’ll be fine. If we can keep the main group together and come ready to play and work, we’ll be ready to go next year.”

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