By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
TUCUMCARI — It started as a pitchers’ duel, with Tucumcari’s Matt Smith and Floyd’s Kyle Kropf each working three scoreless innings. The next three innings just didn’t hold up for the visiting Broncos.
Gabriel Anaya pitched two strong innings to pick up the win in relief and had a two-run single in the sixth to cap off a 9-1 comeback win in the first round of the Tucumcari Invite.
Tucumcari (1-0) wasn’t the only team to start off the tournament strong. The four first-round winners outscored their opponents 50-5.
Floyd defeated Clayton’s junior varsity 9-1 in the consolation bracket. The Broncos play for fifth place at 9 a.m. today against Grady.
Smith pitched well enough to get the win, allowing one run on two hits, with seven strikeouts and no walks in four innings before he switched positions with Anaya at second base.
But the Rattlers didn’t start scoring until a fifth-inning error opened the floodgates for a five-run rally, which saw the first run score off of a Smith single.
Rattlers coach Tony Alarcon was pleased with both of his pitchers, who combined to allow only three baserunners past second.
“He started out good,” Alarcon said. “He did a good job for three innings. Gabriel stepped up, came in and finished the game.”
Anaya struck out the side in the sixth, and the game was called after six innings after the Rattlers added four insurance runs off relievers Aaron Ruther and Chay Chenault. The tournament format included an eight-run rule.
The fifth-inning bobble didn’t help Kropf, who had already thrown 78 pitches in the first four innings to keep Tucumcari off the board. After the error to lead off the inning, the final four batters Kropf faced reached base. Leadoff hitter Andrez Apodaca was forced out on a fielder’s choice, but all of the other four batters scored.
May said the fifth inning woes came from a combination of a high pitch count for Kropf and some defensive changes he made after pulling a player for not running out a ground ball.
“That’s not something we’re going to put up with,” May said. “We’ve got a limited number of kids. Our talent level isn’t the same for all of them (so it hurts to lose one).”
Kropf ended up allowing four runs — two earned — on three hits in 4 1/3 innings, with four walks and six strikeouts.
May said he was pleased with the way the team played up to that point, and said being up 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth was a positive for a team that went winless last year.
Smith went 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs for the Rattlers, while Andre DeBord was 1-for-1 with a double, three walks and two runs scored. Brad Lee went 2-for-3 and scored Floyd’s only run off a single from Ubaldo Gallegos in the fourth.