McCurdy Falls To Melrose In State Championship

The Mcurdy baseball team after the championsip game in Isotope's Park. Photo by George Morse with the Valley Daily Post

McCurdy Falls To Melrose In State Championship

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

In what would be his last time at bat for McCurdy Charter School, senior Alejandro Croff grounded the ball to shortstop. After he was thrown out at first base in the bottom of the sixth inning, you could feel the frustration Croff felt returning to the dugout at Isotopes Park in the Class A-2A state championship game against Melrose High School May 13 in Albuquerque.

Croff, the winning pitcher in McCurdy’s 11-3 victory in the quarterfinals against Questa High School May 11 and the Bobcats’ 9-5 win in the semifinals over Floyd High School, had pitched his heart out in the championship game against Melrose. Coming on in the second inning in relief of McCurdy starter Matt Martinez, Croff had held the Buffaloes in check after Melrose had taken a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

“I knew they were a tough team and I had to give it my all,” Croff said. “That’s what I did. Freddie (McCurdy catcher Alfredo Perez) called some good pitches back there and I just threw what he wanted. All the credit goes to Freddie.”

At the plate, the Bobcats couldn’t connect against Melrose starter Wyatt Williams. Mixing a good fastball with a curveball that fooled McCurdy batters time and again, Williams didn’t allow McCurdy to get a hit. Williams allowed just two baserunners, walking the Bobcats A. J. Vallo in the third inning and Gabriel Huerta in the fourth inning. Striking out 13 batters. Backed by a solid defense that did not commit an error, Williams made the four runs Melrose scored in the first inning stand up. He finished the game striking out the side in the top of the seventh inning for a 4-0 victory and the Buffaloes second straight Class A-2A state baseball championship.

“It’s the perfect way to end our season,” Williams said. “I had a lot of nerves . Warming up I threw the ball over my catcher’s head. I used my curveball a lot more. It was biting real good. I give a lot of credit to Chris (catcher Chris Fisher).”

Croff was nearly as effective as Williams, allowing just one hit and striking out nine batters over five innings. Because he had pitched I McCurdy’s two previous game and the New Mexico Activities Association limits pitchers to 12 innings in 72 hours, that was all he had left to give.

McCurdy Coach Roberto DeVargas opted to start freshman Martinez and save Croff for the later innings. Martinez ran into trouble after Melrose leadoff hitter Rowdy Allen was safe at first on a throwing error by Bobcats shortstop Isaiah Archuleta. Allen stole second and Williams drew a walk. Braiden Hemminger hit a soft groundball to short that Archuleta fielded, but he hurried his throw to first. It went wide of the bag and Allen scored. Jordan Jasso followed with an infield hit to score Williams.

Two more runs scored on a single to left by Cordell Northrup and the Buffaloes had a 4-0 lead that was all Williams would need.

“It felt good,” Williams said. “When you have four runs, it’s a lot easier to pitch.”

It was the second year in a row that Melrose has shattered the Bobcats dreams of a state championship. The Buffaloes defeated McCurdy 12-0 in the 2015 Class A-2A state championship game. Melrose completed a stellar season that saw the Buffaloes win the 8-man state football championship and the Class 2A state basketball championship.

‘They put a lot of work in every sport,” Melrose Coach Caleb King said. “It’s a reflection of our community. All our kids show up every day.”

The Bobcats still had a lot to be proud of.

“It was a privilege to play here,” Perez said. “Players all across the state dream about getting here.”

McCurdy started six freshmen throughout the season and they were an important cog in McCurdy’s run, although it wasn’t the ending the Bobcats wanted for their seniors.

“It’s heart-breaking,” freshman Gabriel Huerta said. “We’ll be more hungry next year. We’ll definitely battle back.”

 Coach DeVargas embraced Croff after the game.

“It’s not an easy thing to get here,” he said. “This team battled all season. I was just expecting to get that one hit and start moving guys across. I figured we could come back, but it wasn’t in the cards.”