Article Written by: Jason Farmer NEWS-SUN
Photo Taken by: Tony Baker NMTXsports.com
Chase Whetsel was the exact person the New Mexico Junior College baseball team wanted at the plate with two outs Tuesday evening. The thunderbirds trailed 9-8, but had the bases loaded. Whetsel who already had a two-run triple, a double, and an RBI-walk, singled to right field on the fifth pitch of his sixth at bat, scoring Larry Leitha and Levi Dixon to beat Howard College 10-9.
"It is rough, but at the same time, it is what every player lives for," Whesel said.
"They always want to be the one to come up to bat to win the game. I knew we could win the game. It was an opportunity that I got to have and it was a great feeling."
New Mexico Junior College skipper Jimmy Durham was pleased with his team's never give up attitude.
"The battled," Durham siad. "They battled and they have done that all year. ...that team always battles. I don't care who they are playing or who they are throwing they always battle, late, and that is pretty good."
The T-Birds started the ninth trailing 9-7. Jesse Becton led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second when Jose Rodrigo-Avina reached on an error by the Howard College third baseman. Leitha followed with a fielder's choice, retiring Rodrigo-Avina at secon, but allowing Becton to advance to third and putting Leitha safely on first. Levi Dixon then walked to load the bases.
With the game on the line, Whetsel, the T-Birds' No. 2 hitter, dropped a single into right field, allowing Leitha and Dixon to score. Leitha's run tied the game and Dixon's was the winnning run.
"He swung the bat well today," Durham said of Whetsel.
Whetsel wasn't looking for any particular pitch, but he did have a plan.
"I was just looking to put it in the gap," Whetsel said. "I just wanted to put it in the gap and let Larry (Leitha) score and whoever was on second to win this game."
New Mexico Junior College took the early lead, scoring twice in the bottom of the second, but Howard College knotted the game up at 2-2 in the top of the third. The Hawks took the lead in the top of the fourth, but NMJC tied the game back up in the bottom of the frame on Dixon's two-run homer.
Howard College re-took the lead with a three-spot in the top of the sixth. NMJC got two runs back in the bottom of the frame, but gave those two runs right back in the top of the seventh on a two-run homer, taking a 9-6 lead.
The T-Birds scored once in the bottom of the eight when Howard College's pitcher was called for a walk with Peterson on third.
The T-Birds were out-hit 12 to 8 by Howard college, but out-walked the Hawks 11 to 6. Through the first seven innings, NMJC had four hits. the T-Birds picked up two in the eight and their final two in the ninth. The T-Birds also left 11 runners on the bases and twice left the bases loaded.
"It is better to hit late than to hit early," Durham said.
Whetsel finished the game 3-for-5 with a triple, double, single, walk, and five runs batted in. Dixon was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, two RBI, and a walk while Peterson was 2-for-5 with a run, an RBI, and a free pass.
"Honestly, (I saw the ball) pretty well," Whetsel said. "They were really feeding a lot of offspeed. You really dont hit offspeed a lot, but with a team like that they wer putting everything away and off-speed, so it was pretty easy to see today. "
Corey Jackson started the game for the T-Birds and got a no decision. Jackson threw 101 pitches, stiking out seven and walking four. He also alllowed four runs, all earned, on four hits in five innings of work.
"He threw great," Durham said. "He hadn't thrown as much lately. He has a good arm and he has good stuff. He threw really good and he kept us in the game."
Wyatt Kelley and Sean Maher each pitched one inning for NMJC. Kelley allowed three runs while Maher gave up two. Gerardo Duarte pitched the final two innnings and got the win. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three.
"(Duarte) he threw good too," Durham said. "He has had an up and down year. He really kept us in it today."
With the win, NMJC improves to 23-19 on the season. Next up for the T-Birds is a road trip to Odessa this afternoon for another non-conference game. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.