By Dave Wagner, Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — Leave it to the girl on the team to save the day.
Trailing 4-3 and down to its final out, Zia’s Niki Cordova blasted a first-pitch, three-run double to the center field fence in the top of the sixth to lift the Clovis squad past Roosevelt County 6-4 Saturday night at Beachum Field in the if-necessary game of the District 3 Little League 11-12 year old division.
Zia, which won two of three closely-contested games with Roosevelt in the double-elimination event, now advances to state competition beginning next weekend in Albuquerque.
Manager Charles Lott said he wasn’t surprised by Cordova’s poke, which erased the last of a 4-0 deficit for Zia.
“Niki is probably one of the most clutch players I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached her for five years,” Lott said. “The kids knew it was do or die, and they never said ‘die.’”
“The last time we played (against Roosevelt County) we didn’t hit the ball well. But (his players) never got down; they kept fighting.”
Roosevelt pitcher Reyes Chavez retired the first batters he faced and was perfect in four of the first five innings. He ran into trouble in the fourth, in part because of his own throwing error, as Zia tallied three times to pull to 4-3, the last two runs coming in on a two-out single by Jeremiah Beaman.
In the sixth, Chavez loaded the bases with one out but had to be replaced because he had reached the 85-pitch limit. Will Murdock took over and got Beaman on a liner to third that nearly turned into a double play, but Cordova followed with her shot up the alley to put Zia in front.
“That girl came through with a big hit,” Roosevelt County manager Donald Martinez said. “They’re a good team; they’ve got heart. I think they’ll represent the district well at state.”
Roosevelt County broke through for four runs with two out in the third. Reyes Calbert drilled a single to the fence in right-center to score Raymond Martin, then Chavez singled home two runs and later scored on a hit by Anthony Loya.
“Our boys hung in there,” Martinez said. “They fought like champions, and I’m proud of them.”