By Leroy Chavez<br />Sports writer
ALBUQUERQUE — The Raton Tigers dropped a 3-1 verdict to second-ranked Sandia Prep SunDevils in the semifinals of the Class AAA State Baseball Tournament played in Albuquerque on Friday (May 16) at the University of New Mexico baseball facility.
To get to the final four, the Tigers shut out 3rd ranked St. Michaels of Santa Fe 3-0 on Thursday (May 15) at the Rio Rancho baseball complex.
“We played them pretty even, we knew it was coming down to play here and a play there,” said Raton head coach Mike Marez. “Caleb (Wood) threw well. We had people on base, we had our opportunities.”
For the Tigers it was huge turn-around from a team that won four games last year to finish with 21 wins this year and a final-four finish. More impressive was the fact that Silver City, the eventual state champion, is the largest school in the classification and the other final-four schools were two Albuquerque private schools (Hope Christian and Sandia Prep) that have a large pool of kids to choose from, while Raton is the smallest school in Class AAA.
Sandia Prep 3, Raton 1
On Saturday, the Tigers drew first blood in the top of the first when Dante Mileta reached first base on a single, then stole second base. Cam Baird followed with a triple bringing in Mileta. Sandia Prep tied the score in the bottom of the third, then took the lead for good with three more runs in the bottom of the third.
Cam Baird led the Tigers offensively going 3-for-3 with two singles, a triple, stole one base and one RBI, Dante Mileta was 2-for-4 with two singles, scored one run and stole two bases; Caleb Wood was 1-for-4 with one single; Darrick Stoecker was 1-for-2 with one single; Jordan Darras was 1-for-1 with one single and one sacrifice bunt; Dillon Lemons one stolen base and one sacrifice bunt; and Martin Ortiz had a sacrifice bunt
Raton 3, St. Michaels 0
Thursday in Rio Rancho, two of the state’s premier hurlers faced off on the mound with the Raton Tigers and Cam Baird getting the win over Matthew Smallwood and the St. Michaels Horsemen.
Baird gave up six hits and no runs while striking out 10 batters to out-duel Smallwood who allowed three runs on four hits while striking out 13 Horsemen. Thursday was also Cam Baird’s birthday making the win even more memorable for the senior hurler.
“They came out and swung the bat,” said Horsemen pitcher Matt Smallwood. “They deserved it. They jumped on us straight away. We lost the game but I tip my hat to Cam and the Tigers. They’re a heck of a team.”
With one out in the first, Ethan Washburn singled to center field, then took off on a hit-and-run as Caleb Wood hit the ball to left field for a run scoring double. Cam Baird hit a sacrifice to bring in Wood to make the score 2-0. Raton added an insurance run in the top of the fifth, the held the Horsemen scoreless to win the game 3-0 to advance to the final four in the state tournament.
“Anytime you spot a team a two-run lead, even in the first inning, with a pitcher like Cam (Baird), it’ll be hard to make a comeback,” said Horsemen coach Daniel Vigil. “We still had a chance with Smallwood on the mound.”
Offensively for Raton, Ethan Washburn was 1-for-4 with one single and scored once; Caleb Wood was 2-for-3 with one single, one double, scored one run, and two RBIs; Cam Baird had a walk, stole a base and had one RBI; Martin Ortiz had a sacrifice bunt and scored one run; Dante Mileta was walked; and Jonathan Cabriales stole a base.
“We rode the his back (Cam Baird) and our offense strung together a few runs on the board and that’s all we needed,” noted Raton coach Mike Marez.
In their last campaign in the old “Class AAA” the Tigers finished the season with a 21-10 overall mark and in the process recorded at least one victory over long-time district rivals Las Vegas Robertson, Pojoaque Valley, Taos and West Las Vegas and former district rival St. Michaels during the course of the season. The new District 2AAA will consist of the Clayton Yellowjackets, Santa Rosa Lions, and the Tucumcari Rattlers.
The Tigers will lose five seniors to graduation — Cam Baird, Jordan Darras, Darrick Stoecker, Brandon Romero and Caleb Wood — but will return a solid core that will continue the success the program has achieved this year.
“We will definitely miss the seniors and I expect to see Cam (Baird), Caleb (Wood) and Darrick (Stoecker) playing at the next level,” said Marez. “Darrick came in this year, but the other kids came into the program as young boys five years ago and leave as young men. I wish them all well.”