JASON FARMER/NEWS-SUN Tuck Tucker pitches for NMJC Sunday afternoon at Ray Birmingham Field. Tucker hurled a complete game, 3-hitter as the T-Birds beat the Rough Riders 7-1 and swept the four-game series.
The New Mexico Junior College baseball team swept its third straight Western Junior College Athletic Conference opponent over the weekend, taking four straight from Luna College at Ray Birmingham Field. The Thunderbirds opened the series with a 2-0 complete game win on Saturday and closed out the series with another complete game, this time a 7-1 win on Sunday afternoon. The T-Birds also won 10-6 Sunday morning and 11-3 Saturday afternoon.
"These were four games we needed (to win)," NMJC skipper Jimmy Durham said. "There are about five teams bunched up close to the top and we are about to play arguably the two best teams the next two weekends in the conference."
The T-Birds will play their final non-conference game today when NMJC hosts Odessa College in a nine-inning game. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. at Ray Birmingham Field. The T-Birds will then travel to Clarendon this weekend before closing the season with Howard College.
With the sweep, NMJC has now won nine straight. The T-Birds improve to 36-11 on the season and 23-6 in WJCAC play. The T-Birds are also sitting atop the WJCAC standings, two games ahead of Midland College (30-17, 20-8) and Howard College (28-17, 20-8). Clarendon College (31-14, 19-9) is currently in fourth place.
Tuck Tucker dominated on the mound for NMJC in the nightcap. The sophomore retired the first 13 batters he faced before giving up a one out single in the fifth, on his way to pitching a complete game. He struck out five of the first nine batters he faced, including punching out the side in the second.
"In all honesty, you don't say it, but you start to think no hitter," Durham said. "You know what is always hard to do is pitch well after the no-hitter is broke up, and he continued to pitch well."
Tucker struck out 11 while limiting Luna College to three hits and one walk over nine innings of work.
"Tuck just took over in the second game," Durham said. "He did something that is hard to do in any league, throwing a complete nine-inning game."
Offensively, Avery Tuck did a lot of damage. The freshman was a triple shy of the cycle while driving in three runs, scoring two, and stealing a pair of bases.
"He had a good offensive day," Durham said. "He has got some tools and can make things happen. He is a very exciting offensive, and defensive player."
Earlier in the day, the T-Birds scored seven times in the bottom of the first. The seven runs were enough to secure the game one win, but by the bottom of the third, NMJC's lead had been cut to one, 7-6. The T-Birds added insurance runs in the third, fifth, and sixth.
Carlos Ortiz started the game, but pitched only three innings. Ortiz allowed six runs on seven hits, one walk, a hit batter, and a home run with four strikeouts. Tristan Stivors took over in the fourth and pitched the next four innings. Stivors allowed just two hits and one walk while punching out six.
"Tristan Stivors just came in and just absolutely shut them down in the first game," Durham said. "He did a great job in the first game. Carlos (Ortiz) was not his normal self. It was the worst outing he has had all year, but he has pitched really well up to that point."