There are mileposts throughout the baseball season, games that can be highlighted on a calendar as extra important.
The first game of district play certainly qualifies. And Thursday was that neon-marker day for the Hobbs baseball team, as the Eagles hosted Roswell for a doubleheader. Game 1 was the official start of District 4-5A play for both teams, and with a 13-3, five-inning victory over the Coyotes at Veterans Memorial Complex, the Eagles began their district schedule with a whoosh.
“We’ve been ready,” Hobbs head coach Marco Boyle said. “We’ve had a pretty good preseason. We’re just excited to try to get to the next level, get to the playoffs.”
The non-district games were fun, but district matchups are a lot more special.
“They just really matter. They’re all rivals,” Hobbs starting pitcher Zak McPeters said after working the entire five innings and allowing just one hit, one walk and no earned runs while striking out six.
McPeters got run support from his teammates, who banged out 12 hits. A third of those came from Mekhi Brewer, who went 4-for-4, including two doubles, four RBIs and a run scored.
Eryk McNabb went 3-for-4, including a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
The Eagles jumped out quickly in the game, as Bernie Socarras-Puig led off the Hobbs half of the first inning by drawing a walk. McNabb beat out an infield single, and Colton Graham then sent a ball into right field. There seemed to be hesitation on the basepaths, as the runners waited to see if the ball would drop, and when it did, Socarras-Puig motored around to score the game’s first run. It appeared the hit would be a long single for Graham, but on a throw toward third base, he took second while McNabb made it to third safely.
Edwin Perez flied out, allowing McNabb to score on the sacrifice and make it a 2-0 game. Brewer then smacked a first-pitch single to shallow right-center, scoring Graham to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.
Easton Kuykendall led off the bottom of the second inning by swatting a 2-2 pitch for a single. Socarras-Puig then sliced a first-pitch single right through the middle of Roswell’s infield, sending Kuykendall to third base.
With McNabb up, Socarras-Puig attempted to steal second base, and when the throw went into the outfield, Kuykendall scored and handed the Eagles a 4-0 advantage. McNabb was still up when a wild pitch made it to the backstop. Socarras-Puig tried to score on the play, but was thrown out at home plate. McNabb then singled, and went to second base on a throwing error past first.
With Graham up, McNabb stole third base, and the Eagles had runners on first and was . Graham went to second base on a wild pitch, and McNabb scored to make it 5-0 when Perez reached on an infield error. Perez was able to take second base on a separate throwing error past first, allowing Graham to score and give the Eagles a 6-0 advantage.
Brewer singled Perez home with Hobbs’ seventh run, and after Marcos Aldrete singled, he went to second base on an outfield error, as Brewer came around to score and hand the Eagles an 8-0 lead.
Roswell scratched three runs across in the top of the third inning, getting two on a throwing error and another on a single by Ivan Miramontes – the first, and as it turned out, the only hit off McPeters, which narrowed the margin to 8-3.
Hobbs bounced back in the bottom of the third, piecing together a two-out rally. Socarras – Puig began it by getting hit by a pitch, and he came around to score on a double by Mc N abb that gave the Eagles a 9-3 advantage.
It was 11-3 in the bottom of the fourth after Kenyon Singleton reached on an infield single that scored Aldrete and Isaiah Montes. The Eagles loaded the bases that half-inning but couldn’t push any more runs across.
In the bottom of the fifth, Hobbs closed it out when Brewer clouted a double that scored Graham and Perez to end the game on the 10-run rule. The Eagles had begun their district play with a big win, fueled by McPeters’ gem.
“I just went up there, threw strikes, let the defense work,” McPeters said. “You’ve got to have trust in the defense.”
“He did well, he threw the ball well,” Boyle said. “He wasn’t in the zone as much as we thought he could be, but he did very good. He’s been working on a few things with his mechanics, and it’s starting to show, starting to click at the right time.”
The Eagles followed up that game with an even bigger rout –20-0 – over the Coyotes, featuring another five-inning one-hitter, this time from Graham, who struck out seven and walked none. He also swatted a double and a triple to help his own cause, part of a 3-for-5 night that included three RBIs and two runs scored.
McPeters had himself a night with the stick to follow up his pitching performance in Game 1, slashing a Game 2 line of 4-for-4, including two doubles, three runs scored, and four RBI.
Socarras-Puig had a triple and a home run. Brewer and Major Byrd added homers for the Eagles, and Hector Armendariz went 2-for-3 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. Hobbs cracked 14 hits in Game 2, 26 on the night.
The Eagles improved to 15-4 overall while kick-starting their district slate with a 2-0 record. They will continue district play with a road game at Roswell on Monday (7 p.m.) before plowing further into the district schedule with three games against Clovis and three against Carlsbad to close out the month and the regular season.
The Eagles are hoping for a repeat district championship and then a state tournament run that includes just one more victory than last season’s state runner-up performance.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good shot,” McPeters said. “We’ve just got to play together, stay focused, hit good, throw strikes.”