By Eric Butler
CARLSBAD — When Roosevelt County’s Lathan Lieb came to bat in the first inning, it was a classic case of a pitcher getting a big chance to help his own cause — except it didn’t feel all that urgent at the time.
Lieb did deliver an RBI infield hit for one run, which was followed by an error for another. Those were all the runs Roosevelt County got, but it was just enough as the Portales-based team defeated the Las Vegas All-Stars 2-1 on Saturday night in Carlsbad.
The game was a first-round state tournament contest in the Little League Majors division, which consists of players 12 years of age and younger. Roosevelt County won the district tournament in Clovis last week to earn the state berth.
In the opening-round contest, Las Vegas started in shaky fashion. Roosevelt County leadoff hitter Andrew Villanueva lifted a high fly to left which was missed to start the game.
Villanueva eventually scored the first run when Lieb hit a seeing-eye roller that Las Vegas shortstop Daniel Martinez had to range into shallow left field to track down. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Roosevelt County’s Cody Small hit a grounder to second that was booted to score Jesus Acosta for a 2-0 lead.
That turned out to be all the scoring for Roosevelt County, however.
“I thought we were going to get a lot more,” said Lieb after the game.
Lieb was up to the task, however, of keeping the Las Vegas bats at bay.
“At first, I was nervous. But I knew I had defense behind me and we could pull it out with the defense,” Lieb said.
Inducing seven groundball outs through three innings, Lieb was consistently ahead of the Vegas bats. The two hits, at that juncture, were both opposite-field hits by Las Vegas catcher Nick Archuleta.
Lefty Ray Mora was also behind a Lieb pitch in the fourth, but he drove it hard enough to clear the left field fence for a solo homer. Suddenly, the
Roosevelt County margin was cut in half and the Portales fans were a little more nervous.
Lieb then loaded the bases in the fifth after another opposite-field hit and a pair of walks. But Roosevelt County got out of that jam when Lieb got Mike
Martinez to ground out to second baseman Jesus Acosta for the third out.
“We were very nervous, but all these teams out here are real good,” Roosevelt County coach Sammy Villanueva said. “Our kids, in the whole district (season), except for when we won 6-3 in the championship, they’ve all been one-run ball games.
“I hope they’re all this close,” he added. “With us on top.”
In Las Vegas’ last time at bat, in the bottom of the sixth, Roosevelt County sent in Andrew Villanueva to pitch. Villanueva got the first two hitters to meekly ground back to himself for outs before he fanned Antonio Arguello for the final out.
In the double-elimination tournament, Roosevelt County will be in action on Monday night in Carlsbad at 8:00. Next up for the Roosevelt All-Stars will be the winner of a Sunday game between Carlsbad Shorthorn and the Roswell Noon Optimist squad.
Roosevelt 200 000 — 2 6 0
Las Vegas 000 100 — 1 4 3
Pitching: Roosevelt, Lathan Lieb, Andrew Villanueva (6) and Brandon Petersen, Raymond Martinez (3), Petersen (5); Las Vegas, Fabion Montoya and Nick Archuleta.
Leading Hitters: Roosevelt, Lieb 2-3 RBI, Luis Ortiz 1-2 2B, Travis Stobb 1-2; LV Ray Mora 1-3 HR, Archuleta 2-2 2B.