NMJC right-hand pitcher Ty Stephenson threw a complete game in the Thunderbirds 15-2 game 1 win over Luna Community College at The Ray Birmingham Thunderbird Baseball Field Friday afternoon.
On a sunny day with a light breeze the Ray Birmingham Thunderbird Baseball Field welcomed a small crowd of New Mexico Junior College baseball fans for a doubleheader against Luna Community College Friday afternoon.
The NMJC Thunderbirds (20-9) looked to start the four-game conference series against the Rough Riders (4-29) on the right foot with two wins.
The Thunderbirds needed only five innings to win the first game 15-2, and six innings to take the second game 11-1. The Thunderbirds lead the series 2-0 and will go for the sweep in today's doubleheader at noon.
"We had really good pitching performances today," Thunderbird skipper Jimmy Durham said about both wins. "The offense did what they are supposed to do and they executed all three parts of the game, defense, offense, and we pitched OK."
In game one the Thunderbirds gave the start to right-hand pitcher Ty Stephenson who earned a complete game win. Stephenson gave up a two-run homer in the first inning but responded with a commanding performance. He allowed two earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts and walked two batters.
NMJC responded to Luna taking a 2-0 lead early in the game by scoring five runs in the bottom of the second. Designated hitter Angel DeLaCruz turned the game around with a grand slam off the first pitch he saw at his first at-bat. Center fielder Adrian Torres hit a solo home run after the grand slam to give the Thunderbirds a 5-2 lead.
The Thunderbirds added six more runs in the second. Third baseman Daniel Hernandez hit an RBI double down the third baseline. Second baseman Zac Vooletich hit an RBI single into left field to bring NMJC's lead to 7-2. DeLaCruz hit a two-run triple off an error when the Luna outfielder lost the ball in the sun and it landed behind him. First baseman Junior Ramirez capped the inning with a two-run double to put NMJC up 11-2 after two innings of play.
NMJC added a run in the third off an RBI double by Vooletich pushing the lead to 12-2. In the fourth New Mexico added another three runs to the lead. Left fielder Ollie Thompson hit an RBI double, followed by another RBI double by catcher Rody Barker, and Hernandez hit an RBI single to end the game on the mercy rule.
After winning the first game 15-2, the Thunderbirds looked to create the same offense in the second game.
NMJC went with left-handed pitcher Jairo Vasquez on the mound for five innings where he allowed only one run in the 11-1 win. Vasquez allowed one run off five hits, striking out 10 and walking one. Right-handed pitcher Cade Acrey got the save with no hits, three strikeouts and a walk.
The Thunderbirds opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with Vooletich hitting a sacrifice fly letting Barker score for a 1-0 lead. In the second Ramirez added to the lead with a two-run double pushing the lead to 3-0.
The Rough Riders scored their only run in the top of the third off a sac fly bringing in the runner on third, cutting the lead to two. The Thunderbirds did not score in the third, but added five more runs in the fourth. Right fielder Carlos Contreras hit a two-run triple and Hernandez in the following at-bat hit a two-run homer to put NMJC up 7-1. Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to bring in a run, 8-1.
In the fifth Hernandez hit an RBI double to give the Thunderbirds a 9-1 lead. In the bottom of the sixth Ramirez hit an RBI double and Hernandez hit an RBI single to end the game at 11-1 in favor of the home team, again on the 10-run mercy rule.
With the wins the Thunderbirds are 11-3 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, putting them in a tie for third with Howard College.
"Every win is important in conference," the NMJC skipper said on the conference wins. "Somewhere down the line a win or a loss will make a difference in conference standing."
"We always expect that," Durham said on wanting to see the same performance by his team. "But baseball is a funny game. It depends on what kind of pitcher you are facing and that can make a difference. We are just going to come out and do it the same way we tried to do it today."