By Kevin Wilson
Dora was bound for the state baseball tournament no matter what happened in Thursday’s Region B championship.
So, when the Coyotes ended with a 13-9 defeat from what was almost a certain victory against Lordsburg, they could at least make a positive out of a negative instead of fretting about the end of a season.
Dora (11-7) seem destined to win the region championship at Ram Field in Portales following a go-ahead grand slam by senior Chris Rolston. But the Coyotes became error-prone in the seventh inning, and five Dora errors paved the way for a five-run inning to give the visiting Mavericks (21-3) a comeback victory.
“I think we did a lot of things right,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said following the forgettable ending. “Obviously, we did some things wrong, but that gives us something to work on in the stretch run.
“It didn’t happen at Farmington, so we’re still moving on.”
Thatcher said he’ll likely “hit 5,000 grounders” in the practices leading up to the Coyotes’ state tournament opener, scheduled for 12:45 p.m. at Ricketts Field in Farmington.
Each team had qualified on Wednesday night — the Coyotes edged Tularosa 9-8 — and each is three victories away from a state championship at this point. A rematch between the two would only happen in the Class 1A-2A championship game.
Dora made six errors on the game, but saved their worst for last and denied Brent Hays a chance at a victory. Hays ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings, as he nursed an ankle injury created by an Angel Saenz line drive.
Other than those two innings, where Lordsburg scored seven runs and collected 10 of their 13 total hits, Hays kept the Mavericks at bay.
“Brent pitched a good game,” Thatcher said. “He obviously didn’t get a lot of help at times, but he got one grounder after another.”
The Coyotes trailed 8-4 entering the bottom of the fifth, but leadoff hitter Michael Sebring was hit by a pitch and both Travis Belcher and Clayton Stokes followed up with singles to load the bases. Hays rached on an error, scoring a run.
Following a strikeout to Bryce Hays, Rolston came up. Rolston, who spent the previous two innings telling his teammates to watch for a first-strike fastball from Mondo Morelas, crushed the first pitch he saw 370 feet to dead center to give Dora the lead.
“We wanted to pitch away from him,” Lordsburg coach Bill Mendoza said, “but we missed our target and he’s a heck of a hitter.
“They’re a good ballclub and they played well.”
The Mavericks prevented the Coyotes from scoring with runners at second and third in the sixth, then came up in the seventh trailing 9-8.
Joey Saenz led off with a grounder to short, which shortstop Clayton Stokes bobbled. Saenz later scored on a steal attempt, as Bryce Hays overthrew second base.
The Coyotes retired the next two hitters, but Angel Saenz reached when Rolston dropped a throw at first base, then Andrew Saenz got aboard on a drop by centerfielder Travis Belcher.
After Morelas was hit by a pitch to load the bases, a Josh Corrales grounder got past short, allowing a pair of runs to score. Anthony Grado dealt the final blow with a two-run double off the wall in center to give the Mavericks a 13-9 lead.
“When we get up to bat,” Mendoza said, “we’ve got a bunch good hitters. We just want to put the ball in play and manufacture runs.
Morelas retired three of the four hitters he faced in the seventh to seal the victory for Lordsburg, which stayed close and pounced on the opportunity to steal a win.
“We felt we were going to be in for a close game,” Mendoza said, also referring to Dora’s 9-8 win over Tularosa on Wednesday — a game which also featured late-game heroics and untimely errors.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Mendoza said, “the way we battled back.”