His team trailing 8-0 through three innings of Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader, but sensing they could break through offensively after designated hitter Audric Chadd cranked a double in the second inning and catcher Cole Taber tripled in the third, Dove Creek head coach Trent Daves looked to at last get inside Ignacio pitcher Stoney White Thunder’s head in the fourth.
Shortstop Gage Buffington rapped a leadoff single to left, and reached second via second baseman Taber DeJane’s short one-out single. Chadd then popped up to Bobcat shortstop Eppie Quintana, but with Kendall Gardner – who’d previously lashed a liner at Quintana – at bat, Daves had Buffington steal third base, thus increasing the number of ways he could score.
None factored into the final mathematics, however, as White Thunder froze Gardner with a called third strike.
“Like, it was all mental,” IHS head coach Duke Baker said. “And his mental game – I’ve coached him since he was, I believe, in third grade – and baseball knowledge is unreal for a freshman.”
“It was a huge confidence boost,” White Thunder said. “I felt really good.”
And though the Bobcats failed to score against Gardner, slinging his second inning of relief in the bottom of the fourth, White Thunder countered by getting Bulldog pinch-hitter Mike Coffey – who belted a pinch-hit triple in Game 1 off IHS ace Quintana – to fly to center fielder Devante Montoya. He then got pinch-hitter Liam Hassell to pop up to second baseman Marcus Maez. Atop Daves’ order, Taber managed to beat out an infield single up the third-base line, but White Thunder got Aiden Chadd to fly out to left fielder Dylan McCaw.
White Thunder then led off the home half of the fifth drawing a walk. A Gardner balk advanced him to second, and he reached third when McCaw reached first via a DeJane error. Plunking pinch-hitter Sonny Flores, Gardner loaded the bases for leadoff batter Devante Montoya – who’d circled the bases his previous time up, plating Gabe Archuleta in the process, when DCHS right fielder Josh Kibel couldn’t squeeze a fairly routine fly ball.
Montoya (2-4, 2 R, RBI) promptly singled to left, bringing home White Thunder (1-2, 2 R) and pushing McCaw to third. Maez struck out, but Quintana (3-4, R, 3 RBI) quickly singled to center, allowing McCaw to jog in and clinch a 10-0 victory – and White Thunder a shutout in his varsity debut – as Ignacio began their 2023 season taking two at IHS Field.
Having gotten underway Monday with an 11-1 loss at 4A Shiprock (New Mexico), 1A DCHS dipped to 0-3 overall.
“ (Baker) told me during practice I was going to pitch … a couple innings,” said White Thunder, who scattered five hits, struck out four and walked zero Bulldogs. “Didn’t think he was going to keep me in the whole game; he kind of kept it a surprise. I’ll just have to go out there every time like it’s my last game.”
“Stoney’s something else; he came out and did his job,” Baker said. “Not many people would’ve expected him to do what he did, but he did … and he shined. Sky’s the limit.”
Catcher Phillip Quintana went 1-2 with a walk, run and one RBI. First baseman Rylan Maez, who retired multiple ’Dogs by receiving throws, doing the splits and managing to keep a toe on the bag, went 1-2 with a walk, a run and an RBI-double punctuating the 2A Bobcats’ six-run second against Aiden Chadd (L; 2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K).
Taber went 2-for-3 in defeat, while Buffington, DeJane and Audric Chadd each finished 1-for-2.
Helping his own cause in Game 1, after beginning the opener beaning Taber and later surrendering an RBI-triple by Buffington plus an infield RBI-single by Aiden Chadd in the afternoon’s first frame, Eppie Quintana all but assured Ignacio (2-0 overall) victory with a bases-clearing double – scoring Flores, Montoya and Marcus Maez – in the bottom of the third when the ’Cats increased a 5-2 advantage to 12-2, and chased DCHS starter Taber (L; 2.1 IP, 3 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 5 K) off the slab.
Buffington (0.2 IP, 2 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, HB, 0 K) and first baseman Sheldon Gardner (2.1 IP, H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K) followed him on the hill, but IHS secured a 14-4 win as Eppie Quintana (W, CG; 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, HB, 5 K) scored an unearned run in the Bobcats’ fifth, via a failed pickoff attempt of Ambrose Valdez over at first base. Flores booked an unearned run in the sixth when DeJane, trying to complete a 1-4-3 double play at the expense of batter Marcus Maez (0-2, 3 BB, 2 R, RBI), threw wide of first baseman Coffey as Flores hurried to the hot corner.
Offensively, Eppie Quintana also cracked a two-RBI single, reached via a fielder’s choice and also an error, and ended up 2-for-4 with three runs scored and a vicious six batted in. Hitting right after him in Baker’s lineup, Phillip Quintana went 3-4 with a double, run and three RBIs. Montoya walked twice and reached once via error in finishing 1-3 with three runs and an RBI.
Manning third base defensively, White Thunder went 0-2 but walked twice, scored a run and plated Phillip Quintana with a third-inning RBI-groundout. Valdez fanned twice but walked twice, and left fielder Elliott Hendren went 0-3 but walked once and scored twice as Ignacio profited from an extra practice day when a scheduling snafu postponed 1A Nucla’s Tuesday visit.
“We definitely took advantage,” White Thunder said. “We worked harder than ever so we could beat these guys. I mean, we knew that we’re good; we just had to prove it to everyone else.”
“Pitching, offense, fielding … we were on point, all the way around,” said Baker. “I’m impressed with these wins.”
Aiden Chadd finished 2-for-3 with a double in Game 1. Buffington went 1-3, Taber 1-2 and Coffey 1-2 with a run.