Sunday, May 6, 2012

Peaking No. 12 Eagles impressive in first-round sweep of No. 5 Mayfield

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs' Brayden Price celebrates after the final out
of the Eagles' sweep of Mayfield on Saturday.
  LAS CRUCES — If not for the tree-spotted mountains in view behind Apodaca Park in Las Cruces instead of the endless horizons of southeast New Mexico, most would’ve thought No. 12 Hobbs was the better seed and host team instead of No. 5 Mayfield following the Eagles’ two-game dismantling of the Trojans this weekend.
  In every facet of the game the Eagles were better in this Class 5A state tournament best-of-three, first-round matchup.
  — Hobbs out-hit Mayfield 19-9, including knocking seven extra-base hits compared to one for Mayfield (a home run in the sixth inning of game two with the Trojans already down 6-2).
  — Hobbs’ defense was reliable and clutch in key situations while the Trojans’ defense let them down. The Eagles surrendered just two unearned runs compared to six for Mayfield. Overall, the Eagles committed four errors while Mayfield had five.
  — Hobbs’ pitching, while wild, didn’t give up the big inning. Mayfield scored six runs in the series with four one-run innings and a single two-run inning. On the other side, the Eagles put up a five-spot on Mayfield in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game and scored multiple runs in an inning twice in Friday’s game-one victory.
  It’s clear Hobbs is better than a No. 12 seed and is playing its best baseball at the right time. The Eagles (17-11) have won nine games in a row, including sweeps of No. 3 Carlsbad during district play and now No. 5 Mayfield in the first round of state.
  On the mound, the Eagles are as talented and deep as any team left in the state. David Thomas is on a roll, Caleb Young is starting to find his groove again, Brayden Price showed Saturday he can clutch up and come up big in pressure situations as a closer and lets not forget the Eagles didn’t even throw Victor Porras in this series, a senior who is 5-2 on the season with a 2.33 ERA.
  With a rotation set up perfectly for a three-games-in-three-day stretch that is the final three days of the 5A state tournament next weekend, Hobbs is going to be a tough out.
  The only aspect of the Eagles’ pitching that is troublesome is the amount of free passes Hobbs hurlers surrender. In two games, Hobbs walked 11 and hit two more batters for 13 free baserunners – four more than Mayfield earned by getting hits.
  Teams good enough to make the state quarterfinals are going to capitalize on this. With wood bats in play, Hobbs pitchers have to trust their stuff and challenge hitters.
  At the plate, the Eagles are getting production up and down the lineup – evident in Saturday’s win. While the first three hitters in the lineup went 1-for-9 (something they don’t do very often considering they own three of the top four batting averages on the team), the final six hitters in the order went a combined 10-for-18. The final three hitters in the lineup were 4-for-8 – a great sign for Hobbs.
  While the Eagles are on a roll, more importantly they are keeping their success in perspective.
  “We’re feeling good right now,” Price said. “We’re going to celebrate this until Monday and then we’re back to zero. We’re going to enjoy this but then it’s back to work.”

This column appeared in Sunday's sports section of the Hobbs News-Sun. To read more coverage of your favorite Lea County teams, subscribe to the News-Sun's print or online edition by calling 575-393-2123.