The St. Michael’s baseball team ran its winning streak to five with a doubleheader sweep at District 2-3A rival Santa Fe Indian School, but that’s not the news.
Neither is the fact the Horsemen have outscored their opponents by an average of
9.2 runs and have been held to
16 runs during that span.
While we’re at it, feel free to look past the pair of complete games served up by St. Michael’s starting pitchers Owen Gruda (77 pitches over six innings in the opener, a 14-4 win) and Isaac “Ice” Ruiz ( 91 over seven innings of a 12-3 win in the nightcap).
Now 10-5 overall and alone in first in District 2-3A with a 3-0 record, the Horsemen can point to three numbers written on a board by coach Augie Ruiz for their recent hot streak.
“It was 1-something; I don’t even remember,” said Isaac Ruiz, the coach’s son and one of seven seniors on a deeply talented roster that has the look and feel of a state championship contender. “He was talking about our team batting average and, yeah, it was bad. All I remember is coach saying it was the worst team average he’d had in his whole time coaching. That got our attention.”
“It was like a buck-70, I think,” the elder Ruiz recalled. “I honestly try not to think about it. That’s the lowest I’ve had for a team in
The Horsemen stumbled by losing three of their first six games, surviving mostly on errors and gifts the other teams were giving them, like walks or extra bags on shoddy defense. Things started to turn around during the Jim Pierce Memorial Tournament two weeks ago when Ruiz shook up the lineup.
9.3 runs the last nine games after Ruiz took a wrecking ball to his lineup. He moved Rahul Williams out of the leadoff spot and inserted senior Derek Martinez in there, dropped dynamic freshman shortstop Santiago Martinez into the No. 8 holes and Ice up to
No. 2, slid Williams into the cleanup spot and put John Leeder into the 6-hole.
In the middle of it all was one of the most dangerous players in New Mexico in senior catcher CeeJay Saiz, not to mention a host of others, like senior Jeremiah Clokey. Saiz has been nothing short of otherworldly since he stepped foot on the field as a varsity regular as a freshman. He raised his batting average to a video game-like .595 after Saturday’s games.
“He’s the one guy I can always count on,” Ruiz said. “I can put him anywhere in the lineup and he’s going to produce.”
Saturday’s doubleheader was a snapshot of just how tough the horsemen can be if the batters keep things going. Eight of the first nine batters reached base to start the top of the first inning in Game 1 as SFIS found itself in a 6-0 hole.
Gruda was efficient on the mound, surviving a shaky third inning to get the complete-game win via the six-inning mercy rule. He struck out the side in the fourth and fanned seven over his final three frames.
Afterwards, the topic on Gruda’s mind had more to do with hitting.
“For me, it was all a lack of confidence at the plate,” he said. “This team’s electric. When one person gets on, everybody just gets amped up and it leads to another and another and another. That’s how it starts. That’s how it’s going.”
The Horsemen never trailed in either game. No fewer than six line drives found their way to the SFIS fence as everyone who picked up a bat did some sort of damage. When Ruiz was asked about it, he said he likes the feel the current lineup has.
“Guys like Rahul and Derek, they’re always going to get the job done, and moving those two around has made a huge difference,” he said.
Bumping Martinez into the leadoff spot gives the order a sense of veteran leadership at the top. His presence is also felt on the field and, most of all, the dugout.
At one point, Santiago Martinez lost a high fly ball in the sun and had it drop just a few feet from him. Ruiz and a handful of others chirped at him for not making the play.
“But when we get back in the dugout, Derek’s sliding up to him and giving him encouragement,” Ruiz said. “That’s the kind of leadership I’m talking about. Those are the kinds of things that have turned things around for this team.”
There’s still a lot of work left. The Horsemen have 10 games left, nine of which are in the district. Ranked in the top five in Class 3A heading into Saturday’s games, they’re staking their claim to be a frontrunner the rest of the way.
“This team can be so good if we play the way we have been the last few games,” Gruda said. “No more meetings with coach talking about our 1-something batting average, you know?”