Four Thunderbirds named All-Conference for baseball

Four Thunderbirds named All-Conference for baseball


The 2018 Western Junior College Athletic Conference All-Conference team was released Wednesday night and four New Mexico Junior College players made the team.


The T-Birds had one pitcher, one infielder, and two outfielders honored by the WJCAC. Carlos Ortiz was one of five pitchers selected while Ryan Rijo was one of six infielders. Jake Dickerson and Avery Tuck were two of the five outfielders.


Ortiz went 8-3 for the T-Birds this season with a 5.11 ERA while striking out 74 batters in 61.2 innings of work. He started 11 games and came on in relief in two more.


"He was just our rock, our steady guy who we gave the ball to in one of the seven inning games," NMJC skipper Jimmy Durham said. "You knew what you were going to get with him. You knew you were going to get strikes, and you knew you were going to get quality strikes. You knew you were going to get a guy who was so consistent and steady and that is his calling card."


Rijo made the All-Conference team for the second straight season. The T-Birds first baseman hit .388 for NMJC while mashing 19 home runs. He drove in 58 runs and scored another 55. Rijo's home run and RBI totals were both team-highs. He was second on the team in walks (41) while finishing third in runs scored and batting average.


"It is consecutive seasons for Ryan. He was also All-Region last year," Durham said. "His numbers were a little lower this year. He was real steady and was probably one of the most dangerous hitters in the entire conference, if not the entire region."


Dickerson, the T-Birds' centerfielder, led the team in batting (.401), triples (eight), and stolen bases (17). He was tied for second in RBI (52), third in walks (40), and fourth in runs scored


(54). Tuck, NMJC's right fielder, was tied for the team-lead in doubles (19), tied for second in RBI (52) and tied for third in homers (11) and stolen bases (12). The freshman was second in batting average (.391) and fifth in walks with 27.


"Avery, he had a good year. He is just one of the most aggressive, fun guys to watch and has a lot of energy," Durham said. "He was such a good defensive guy too. His arm in the outfield, he was just an all-round good guy.


"There is no doubt in my mind that (Dickerson) was the absolute, position player-wise, the most improved player on our team," the T-Birds skipper said. "He was not only one of our most important players, but one of our most improved players from last year. … This year he cut his strikeouts down, he cut his misses down, and became just a much better hitter this year."


Dickerson was especially thrilled to be named All-Conference.


"It's definitely an honor, especially as a sophomore," Dickerson said. "Going out like that is special to me. Definitely going to miss all of my teammates and coaches, that's what it's all about."


Ortiz, Rijo, Dickerson, and Tuck weren't the only T-Birds honored though. Anthony Montoya, Tristan Stivors, Rody Baker, Daniel Hernandez, and Tuck Tucker were all listed as honorable mentions.


Baker was a catcher for NMJC and led the team in walks with 53 and runs scored with 59. He hit five homers and drove in 49 runs while tying for the team-lead with 19 doubles. Hernandez hit .359 with 15 doubles and seven home runs. He drove in 41, scored 39, and walked 21 times while stealing five bases.


Tucker (3-1) finished the season with a 4.58 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 39.1 innings of work. Montoya was 6-2 with a 5.43 ERA over 53 innings of work while striking out 53. Stivors went 5-0 with a 5.44 ERA. He struck out 45 in 41.1 innings


Of all the players honored, Tuck, Hernandez, Stivors will be back next year. The rest graduated.


"We are just waiting for the draft with (Tuck)," Durham said. "Hopefully he will get drafted and hopefully it will be high enough where he will warrant the kind of money he wants to go out."


Durham was named the Conference Coach of the Year, but the T-Birds skipper said he wasn't alone in winning that honor.


"I get the award, but the honor really belongs to three people," Durham said. "It doesn't just belong to one, it belongs to Larry (Felix) and Jake (McCarter). Without them, it would be impossible. I couldn't possibly do it myself."


In his second year at the helm, Durham guided the T-Birds to a 40-15 record, five. The 40 wins were the most by NMJC since the T-Birds went 41-20 in 2014-15. The WJCAC title was the first by NMJC since the 2013-14 season.