The baseball season that wasn’t: Morenci 2020 ‘Boys of Spring’ return with state final experience

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Maddux Martinez delivers a pitch to Pima senior Jathen Trujillo in relief March 13. The Morenci junior fanned all four batters faced as the Wildcats prevailed 19-10.

Editor’s Note: With the cancelation of the rest of the spring sports season, the Gila Herald offers this article by Raymundo Frasquillo as a break down of the Morenci Wildcats’ baseball season.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – In 2019, the Joseph Morse-coached No. 10 Wildcats (20-10 overall, 10-7 seeding, 4.3635 rating, 8-4 East Region for 3rd) topped No. 23 Pima 11-1 in the play-in round, No. 7 Benson 4-2 in the state tourney first round, edged No. 2 Phoenix Christian in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Bisbee in the semifinals, before succumbing to top-ranked Scottsdale Christian in the championship game. Morenci’s final three games each had 3-2 scores. It was Morse’s fifth season (67-66-1 overall, 5-3 state playoffs) at the helm.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Omar Ortega readies himself before stepping into the batters’ box. The Morenci senior batted 1.000 (1-1, RBI) against Pima on March 13, .667 (2-3, 2 doubles, RBI) against Miami on March 12, and .500 (1-2, sac, RBI) against Willcox on March 10.

Eleven seasoned state tourney veterans returned for Morenci’s 2020 season, including two all-region honorees in second-team junior Maddux Martinez and honorable mention senior Brandon Blair.

The other returnees were seniors Tayshaun Blackman, Omar Ortega, and Zachary Waltrip; juniors Francisco Araiza, Preston Johnson, Lance Morey, and Jordan Reyes; sophomores Shawn Hudman and Tony Roybal. However, now their season is over and their last bat swings have been swung in a Morenci Wildcat uniform.

New roster members included seniors Isaiah Nofchissey, Lazaro Palomarez III, Samuel Puente, and Rene Ramirez along with freshmen Patrick Chavez, Gabriel Hernandez, Daylen Johnson, and Derek Saenz.

Former assistant coach Christopher Aguallo is in charge.

The Wildcats opened the season with a 2-4 loss at Safford on Feb. 28 during week one, went 3-1 in the three-day Florence-held Joe Padilla Tourney during week two, and reeled off three straight seeding wins during week three.

In Florence, Morenci defeated San Manuel 12-5 and Show Low 3-2 March 5 plus Superior March 6 before succumbing 4-7 to Florence March 7.

Returning to seeding games, the Wildcats shutout the Cowboys 6-0 in Willcox March 10 plus outlasted the Miami Vandals 10-7 and the Pima Roughriders 19-10, both in Francis Waldorf Stadium March 12 and March 13, respectively.

2A East Region Standings

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior Jordan Reyes rounds third base as he heads home against Miami March 12. He batted .750 (3-4, RBI) against the Vandals and 1.000 (3-3, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs) against Pima the next day.

Through the initial three weeks (Feb. 24- March 14), the 2A East Region standings were Tombstone (2-0 region, 4-0 seeding, 9-2-2 overall), Morenci (2-0, 3-1, 6-2), Benson (2-0, 2-1, 8-5), Bisbee (1-0, 1-1, 6-3-1), Willcox (0-1, 1-2, 1-3), Thatcher (0-2, 0-2, 1-5), and Pima (0-4, 0-6, 0-6).

Tombstone’s seeding wins were 5-2 over Saint David (Feb. 27), 7-1 over Pima (Feb. 28), 9-2 over Thatcher (March 3), and 24-0 over Tucson San Miguel (March 9). The Yellow Jackets went 2-1-2 during the Joe Padilla tourney and 3-1 during the Bisbee Invitational.

In tourney play at Florence, the wins were 5-4 over Santa Cruz (March 5) and 5-1 over Show Low (March 7), ties 3-3 with Florence (March 5) and 6-6 with Miami (March 6), and the loss 0-6 to eventual meet runner-up Winslow (March 7). The wins in Bisbee were 17-0 over San Miguel (March 13), 12-8 over Benson (March 14), and 12-0 over San Manuel (March 14) while the loss was 2-9 to Benson (March 11).

Benson’s seeding wins were 14-0 (March 6) and 10-0 (March 10) over Pima, and the loss 6-7 to Tucson Desert Christian (March 3). The Bobcats went 2-3 during Tucson Sabino’s Cowboy Up Tourney and 4-1 during the Bisbee Invitational.

In Tucson, the wins were 7-6 over Tucson Catalina (Feb. 26), 10-3 over Tucson Saint Augustine Catholic (Feb. 28), and 10-0 over Tucson Rincon (Feb. 29), and the losses 10-19 to Tucson Pueblo Magnet (Feb. 27) and 5-6 to host Sabino (Feb. 28). In Bisbee, the wins were 12-0 over San Miguel (March 13) and 2-1 over Saint David (March 13), and the losses 8-10 to Tombstone (March 11), 8-12 to Tombstone (March 14), and 1-14 to Bisbee (March 14).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tony Roybal checks the signs from the third base coach during a recent home game. The Morenci sophomore batted .500(2-4) against Pima March 13 after going .333 (1-3) against Miami (March 12) and .250 (1-4) against Willcox (March 10).

Bisbee’s seeding win is 4-1 over Thatcher (March 10) and the loss 5-6 to Saint Augustine (March 2). The Pumas went 1-2-1 during the Phoenix Christian Cougar Classic and 4-0 during their own tourney.

In Phoenix, the win was 13-0 over Phoenix Washington (Feb. 29), the losses 1-8 to Phoenix Christian (Feb. 28) and 6-7 to Payson (Feb. 29), and the tie 9-9 with Yuma Catholic (Feb. 28). In its own tourney, the wins were 11-2 over Saint Davis (March 11), 7-3 over Willcox (March 12), 12-2 over Saint David (March 13), and 14-1 over Benson (March 14).

The Willcox seeding win was 11-1 over Globe (March 2) and the losses 1-6 to Saint David (March 3) and 0-6 to Morenci (March 10). The Cowboys lost 3-7 to Bisbee (March 12) before withdrawing from the tourney.

Thatcher’s seeding losses were 2-9 to Tombstone (March 3) and 1-4 to Bisbee (March 10). The Eagles went 1-3 during the Joe Padilla Tourney.

In Florence, the win was 3-0 over Globe (March 6), and the losses 0-2 to Winslow (March 5), 0-9 to Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (March 5), and 1-3 to Coolidge (March 7).

Pima posted six consecutive seeding losses, 1-8 to Miami (Feb. 27), 1-7 to Tombstone (Feb. 28), 1-13 to Heber Mogollon (March 5), 0-14 (March 6) and 0-10 (March 10) to Benson, and 10-19 to Morenci (March 13).

Initial team rankings were to be released March 24, but were delayed until April 27.

Canceled Games

There have been no games played since March 16 because “competition delayed until further notice with the closing of statewide schools until at least April 10, decisions regarding return to play and spring tournaments will not take place until then because of the world-wide Covid-19 pandemic,” posted Arizona Interscholastic Association Sports Information Coordinator Seth Polansky. On Monday, Governor Doug Ducey announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year and the AIA followed suit, canceling all contests and championships for spring sports.

The 42nd Morenci Lions Tourney was slated for April 16-18 with a nine-team field. Expected to join Morenci were Miami, Mogollon, Pima, Safford, Saint Johns, Thatcher, Willcox, and Oklahoma’s Konawa. That event will now not take place

2020 Post-season

Post-season play-in games for Nos. 9-24 were to start May 5, round one for Nos. 1-16 May 8, with quarterfinals May 9, semifinals May 15, and final May 18. Now, there will be no postseason.

Morenci – 19, Pima – 10

The visiting Roughriders scored three times as many runs as they had in their previous five games combined. However, Morenci also notched a season-high number of runs and never trailed in the home region contest.

Pima was retired in order during the first, fourth, and seventh innings. The Roughriders tied the score in the top of the second (2-2) with six batters, added two (5-4) in the third with six batters, two (11-6) in the fifth with six batters, and four (15-10) in the sixth with eight batters.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci first-year head baseball coach Chris Aguallo addresses the Wildcats following a game.

Morenci took a 2-0 lead following its initial plate appearance with seven batters, added three runs (5-2) in the second with eight batters, three (8-4) in the third with eight batters, three (11-4) in the fourth with six batters, four (15-6) in the fifth with nine batters, and four (19-10) in the sixth with seven batters.

The Wildcats batted .400 (16-40), stranded eight runners, and committed five errors compared to .148 (4-26), three runners, and 10 errors by Pima.

Individually, Reyes (3-3, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs) and Ortega (1-1, RBI) both batted 1.000, Martinez (2-4, triple), Roybal (2-4), Nofchissey (1-2), and Preston Johnson (1-2, 3 RBIs) each .500, Waltrip (RBI) and Blair (double, RBI) both .400 (2-5), Ramirez .333 (1-3), and Morey .200 (1-5).

On the mound, starter Waltrip struck out three, walked three, beaned two, plus allowed three hits and a sacrifice while facing 26 batters during 5 2/3 innings. Reliever Blair beaned two, walked one, and yielded a hit while facing four batters. Closer Martinez struck out four while facing four batters during 1 1/3 innings.

For Pima, senior Teddy Rector batted .500 (1-2, double), senior Jesus Hernandez (double, RBI) and freshman Coy Miller (2 RBIs) both .333 (1-3), and senior Aldo Molinar .250 (1-4, RBI).

On the mound, starter Miller beaned four, struck out one, and allowed 10 hits while facing 29 batters during five innings. Senior reliever Jathen Trujillo struck out one, beaned one, and allowed four hits while facing nine batters during an inning. Closer Hernandez struck out three and yielded two hits while facing seven batters during an inning.