Magdalena loaded the bases in the seventh inning, but the Steers failed to pull the trigger and lost a 1-0 pitchers’ duel against Hozho on Saturday.

“We’re young. I graduated five seniors last year, and then my son’s out. So, we have four returning starters from last year. We have lots of eighth graders and some freshmen who have yet to play. We’re limited on practices. We’ll figure it out. We’ll put it together,” Magdalena’s head baseball coach, Kyl Candelaria, said.

A limited number of practices at this time of year are familiar to Candelaria. The Steers basketball team has won 11 straight district titles, and the last five seasons have stretched basketball season to the state title game.

It’s a good complaint to have, considering he is waiting on the kind of athletes that take coaches to the postseason.

After finishing in the Final Four last season, Magdalena ranks No. 3 this year behind No. 2 Logan and No. 1 Melrose. The Steers are worthy of the lofty ranking, but they must hone their timing and get their bats on the ball.

Against Hozho, Magdalena tried to play catch-up the entire way after starting pitcher Shane Montoya gave up the only run of the game in the first inning.

Despite the early bobble, the sophomore right-hander had a masterful outing, allowing just three hits. Montoya struck out two batters and issued a pair of walks, but the Steers could not provide the needed run support and got sat down a dozen times by Hozho pitching.

Considering Magdalena has had only one practice with its full squad, a 1-0 decision against a 4-2 team isn’t a bad result.

“We’ve only had one (practice), and that was on Monday. On Tuesday, we had another activity (a powerlifting meet). We had an activity on Wednesday, and I had some kids out on Thursday. So we try to deal with stuff like that and kind of put it all together.,” Candelaria said.

One of the young guys who stepped up against Hozho was freshman Zeb Apachito, who had two of the Steers’ three hits. Sophomore Matthew Lopez provided the third poke.
“We didn’t hit the ball, we didn’t put the ball in play, and we waited too long. We need to attack fastballs. We’re falling behind on the fastball, then we’re trying to fight junk, and we need to be more aggressive at the plate,” Candelaria said.

It looked like Magdalena would do precisely that in the seventh inning as Jayden Piasso, Matthew Lopez, and Zeb Apachito loaded the bases before a forced out and a pop fly ended the game.

Fans can catch the Steers at home on April 6 in a 1 p.m. game against Lordsburg.

Russell Huffman, El Defensor Chieftain Asst. Editor