Friday, May 17, 2013

Column: Always a Thunderbird

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
NMJC's Luis Hernandez throws to first during
the T-Birds' win against Weatherford on Monday.
(This column ran in Thursday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun)

  As I walked down to chat with New Mexico Junior College baseball coach Josh Simpson after its season-ending loss to Grayson near midnight Monday in Grand Prairie, Texas, I had my mind set to do a recap this week of NMJC’s time at the regional tournament (including its struggles at the plate) since I had to rush a story out for Tuesday’s paper to beat deadline.
  When I reached field level, I knew I wanted to take a different approach.
  The Thunderbirds were devastated. No, there weren’t tears shed, but it was easy to see their disappointment. You could actually feel the letdown from the players.
  The T-Birds, who had their best season under Simpson at 45-15, were right there during the regional tournament. Their pitching was fantastic (10 runs allowed in four games, including five in the first three games) but they just couldn’t get the timely hitting it desperately needed – losing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth to Howard and 5-3 on two runs scored in the bottom of the eighth by Grayson.
  But one scene after NMJC’s season came to a close under the lights at QuikTrip Park stood out to me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

NMJC edged by Howard in regional, dropped to loser’s bracket

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
NMJC's Dalton Bowers is tagged out by Howard's Jose Favela during NMJC's
2-1 loss to the Hawks in the Region 5 Tournament.

Clayton Jones
  GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — The New Mexico Junior College baseball team had its chances against Howard College, but couldn’t come up with the clutch hit it needed as an RBI single by Howard’s Cameron Neal in the bottom of the ninth gave the Hawks a 2-1 win over the Thunderbirds in the winner’s bracket semifinal of the Region 5 Tournament on Sunday at QuikTrip Park.
  NMJC (43-14) left 16 runners on base and went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position as Howard starter David Gates limited the T-Birds to one hit through his seven innings of work – keeping NMJC off the board despite nine walks and two hit batters.
  “The bottom line is David Gates was very good tonight,” NMJC coach Josh Simpson said. “He was throwing hard, busting our guys inside and we couldn’t turn on it. Sometimes you just get beat.”