KC, Bloomfield focused on a new season

Jake Newby, and Karl Schneider
Farmington Daily Times
Shiprock's Julian Aspaas collides with Bloomfield catcher Luke Deifenbaugh during their game on April 14 at Shiprock High School.

FARMINGTON – For the fourth, fifth and possibly sixth time this season, the Bloomfield and Kirtland Central baseball teams will duke it out on the diamond this weekend, this time with a trip to Rio Rancho on the line.

The first round of the 4A state tournament pits the two District 1-4A foes against each other as the No. 10 Broncos visit John Gutierrez Field to play No. 7 Bloomfield tonight at 6 in the first game of a best-of-three set.

The Bobcats took the season series from KC 2-1, winning once at home and splitting with the Broncos at their place. Bloomfield first defeated KC 10-2 on March 12 during the Bloomfield Invitational. When the schools met again in an April 28 doubleheader to decide the district championship, Bloomfield's Chauncey White struck 10 batters en route to a 5-2 Bobcats win in game one, which clinched a fourth consecutive district title for Bloomfield.

Kirtland Central didn't hang its head in the second half of the twin bill, winning 4-2 behind a nice start from ace Randon Blindman, who shook off a late-April slump by punching out eight batters and getting the win.

KC coach Bryan Wardroup said the win — his first over Bloomfield in three years as a coach — was huge for his team's psyche.

"We talked about getting over that hump against them and since we did, now it's just another team on the schedule — another team with a 0-0 record like us," Wardroup said. "Now we're at the point where we've seen two of their best three arms, and we know what to expect out of some of their guys, to the point where it really just comes down to execution."

The rivals each finished 16-10 on the season, but according to MaxPreps, Bloomfield's schedule strength rating of -4.1 was higher than Kirtland Central's -5.7. Both teams finished hot, as Kirtland Central won 11 of its last 13 contests, while Bloomfield was victorious in nine of its final 12.

Though it was hoping to land a home series, Shiprock (20-5) settled for the 11th seed in the state tourney and was paired with No. 6 Cobre (16-9).

The Chieftains beat up on lesser opponents this season before stumbling a bit down the stretch with four losses in their last nine games, three of which they led at some point. Shiprock coach Alfred Baer said he thinks his team matches up well with the Indians on paper and thinks it will put the heartbreaking losses behind it in time for the start of the series.

"In years past, we were the ones winning the close ones, and then this year, it just didn't bounce our way," Baer said. "I have the confidence we can get it done, we've just got to tighten our game up a little bit."

The Chieftains will have senior Arjay Miller back in the lineup after he sat out the last six games with a fractured tibia.

Shiprock plays host Cobre at 6 tonight.

PV, Aztec host first-round games

It has been an up-and-down couple of weeks for Piedra Vista after the Panthers dropped back-to-back district games to Miyamura and Aztec before holding off Farmington 9-7 to win another district title.

Now the No. 4 Panthers (17-9) are tasked with facing No. 13 Roswell (11-15) in the first round of the 5A tournament.

PV head coach Mike McGaha said he has been able to scout the Coyotes a few times this season. He said they’re one of the most aggressive teams he has seen, which could pose problems for the Panthers.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen quite as an aggressive team at the plate, and I’m not saying that that’s exactly a positive thing,” McGaha said. “They put lots of balls in play, and I didn’t see them strike out much. The way that we’ve played defense down the stretch, if we don’t play catch, it could pose a problem for us.”

After struggling at times to make routine plays in the final three games of the regular season, the Panthers spent the last few days of practice working on cleaning up the mistakes and playing a few live innings to help keep the intensity high going into the first round.

The first game of the series will be at 4 p.m. today.

Aztec's Zach Taylor gets caught trying to steal second base against Piedra Vista on April 28 at Ricketts Park.

Aztec entered the season with a list of goals and on the top of the list was hosting a first-round series for the state tournament. The Tigers (18-7) came through, receiving the No. 6 seed, and will host their first playoff series in more than five seasons when they take on No. 11 Valencia (14-12) at 6 tonight.

Aztec head coach Wes Laplatt said the Aztec defense will have to look out for Valencia’s Josue Ruiz, who’s batting .403 this season in the cleanup spot, while at the plate, the Tigers will see pitchers comparable to the quality they did during district play against Piedra Vista and Farmington.

Laplatt added that facing stiff competition in District 1-5A, which placed four teams among the top 12 seeds, will give the Tigers a leg up on Valencia.

“I think it’s a big advantage,” he said. “They (Valencia) have Centennial and Belen, so it’s a pretty good district, but for us to have to play PV, Farmington and Miyamura all twice, those are six really quality ball games that really prepared us.”

Despite beating Albuquerque Academy twice this season, Farmington was handed the No. 9 seed while the Chargers landed the eighth seed, forcing the Scorps to hit the road for the first round.

“We do feel like we’ve been on a little bit of a roll, and maybe the seeding committee got it right, but right now we definitely feel like were slighted,” Farmington head coach Sean Trotter said. “You beat a team twice and get seeded below them. We feel like there’s something to prove, and, hopefully, we can channel that into something positive.”

Farmington beat Academy 3-0 and 7-2 on April 2 at Ricketts Park.

Trotter said Academy was missing a couple of players during the first two games, but the bulk of the Chargers’ lineup was there during the losses.

A key to the Scorps picking up two more wins against Academy will be staying patient in the batter’s box and forcing the Chargers to throw strikes, which has been an issue for Academy at times this season.

Game one of the series will be at 4 p.m. today.

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

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