McCurdy Rebounds after Opening Loss to Defending State Champ

It may not sound ideal but opening the 2019 baseball season against last year’s state champions from Class 4A in Hope Christian School might have been one of the best things to happen for McCurdy Charter School.

Without any games under their belt before the start of the Santa Fe Indian School Tournament held March 22-23, the Bobcats (2-1) quickly got their feet wet against the Huskies, losing 7-1 in the tournament opener.

“It was our first game and there was a bit of first game jitters,” McCurdy senior Kemmer Croff said. “We held in there and 7-1 isn’t too bad. Our bats just didn’t come, but they came alive today and I was happy about that we won and had a big game today.”

The big test against Hope Christian prepared McCurdy to open the floodgates on the second game of the tournament March 23 with a towering 16-0 win over Tohatchi High School.

McCurdy head coach Roberto DeVargas was also enthused about the game versus Hope, but unlike Croff, DeVargas said he sensed no jitters from his players.

“I thought our guys were fine,” DeVargas said. “There was no jitters, there was no adrenaline, there was no worrying about anything, they just came out and played. It was our first game and I thought they could have embarrassed us, but we were just excited to play and I saw some good stuff where they held their composure.”

Croff surrendered three earned runs against the Huskies, but he got his chance at redemption against Tohatchi, as he took over for Diego Borrego in the second inning after the junior reached 39 pitches.

The two combined for 11 total strikeouts and five hits allowed. Croff gave up three straight singles in the bottom of the third inning, but he countered with three consecutive strikeouts, denying the Cougars their best opportunity to cut into the 7-0 lead McCurdy had mustered to that point as they left the bases loaded.

Tohatchi was crushed in the opening round 30-0 by Santa Rosa High School, and DeVargas said he didn’t want to put that kind of number on the Cougars, but as the game progressed, his players became more free-flowing and open to capitalize on Tohatchi’s errors that resulted in the team  pilling up 14 total steals for the game.

“It was a slow start and I was planning on holding off on a lot of steals and things like that,” DeVargas said. “But as the game went on, I started to let them steal and let them recognize some stuff. When I go like this, or go like that (steal sign), it’s up to them to recognize that stuff and they did for the most part. That’s what I liked and we were able to work on a lot of fundamentals.”

Tohatchi certainly lacked a lot of the fundamentals and their poor awareness throughout the game gave way to a 10-run explosion by McCurdy in the fifth inning to end the game early.

One of the wildest sequences came from the bat, but more so the legs of Croff, who turned what should have been a routine single into a three-run inside-the-park home run. Beginning with an error at first base by the Cougars, Croff had a slight opportunity to get to second, but ended up stuck in a pickle.

The two likeliest scenarios following would either be him being safe or out at one the first two bases, but two more Tohatchi errors in the sequence gave way for him to round the bases in entirety, ending with a leap in the air to avoid a tag at home by Cougars’ catcher Blaine Long.

The play upped McCurdy’s lead to 10-0 and Croff brought home A.J. Vallo and Clyde Ortiz.

“There was only one out and when we have a guy on third and we’re rounding first our coach tells us to go to see if they focus on us (me),” Croff said. “They focused on me and that allowed A.J. to score and then when they threw it home and dropped the ball again that’s just when I took off.”

Croff led all players with four hits and four RBIs while batting .800, Isaiah Archuleta had three hits and five more Bobcats had two apiece as part of the 19 total.

McCurdy’s bats took off again later in the evening as the Bobcats handled Zuni High School 9-1 at 6 p.m. to claim fifth place out of eight competing teams in the tournament.

DeVargas was just happy with the way his team responded after the loss to Hope and how they were able to keep focused against two inferior opponents at the beginning of a long season.

“I was glad with what they did and sometimes you just have to remind them it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” DeVargas said. “Every day we just need to get better and every day we need to back each other up.”

The Bobcats will welcome Laguna Acoma High School to McCurdy for a doubleheader on Tuesday April 2. The Hawks ousted McCurdy in Española last year in the first round of Class 3A state tournament, winning by a score of 16-10.

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