Magdalena’s Daniel Martinez takes it on the chin as he slides into home plate.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

There’s no better time for starting to peak than right before the playoffs, and for Magdalena, things look perfect with a 4-0 record in District 1-1A play and a 9-3 mark overall.

The Steers are getting done behind young pitching and experience in the field, where Magdalena has shown the most improvement over the last two weeks.

In his second straight complete game, freshman Shane Montoya scattered six hits and issued 14 strikeouts as the Steers beat No. 2 Mesilla Valley Christian School 6-0 on April 22.

Josiah Candelaria and Josh Baca came up with three hits each to lead the Steers’ assault at the plate, with Baca knocking in three RBIs.

The Steers’ biggest asset during their hot streak has been improvement in the field.

“Over the last few weeks, our biggest improvement is definitely our defense,” Steers coach Kyl Candelária said. “It helps when our pitchers throw strikes, and I have pitchers that are able to throw strikes, and we’re not walking anybody.”

Magdalena has been downright stingy when it comes to giving up free passes to first base. Montoya’s 14K effort overshadowed his giving up just one walk. In 19 innings of work, the freshman has sat down 33 batters and allowed just two walks.

“Shane has pitched great for us, and after that Melrose game, we kind of saw where our weak points were and turned our concentration towards defense at practice,” Candelaria said. “Now we’re tightening things up and peaking at the right time heading into the state tournament.”

Magdalena announced it would be a part of the playoff picture when the Steers split a doubleheader with previously unbeaten Melrose. The Steers are ranked fourth in the MaxPreps Class A baseball poll and have three victories against the No. 2 and 3.

Steers’ eighth-grader Josiah Candelaria climbed on the mound for game two against Mesilla and was equally impressive as he allowed one walk and five hits over 4.1 innings. Josh Baca and Jaydon Jaramillo closed the game in relief, with Jaramillo picking up a save.

Castanon led the batting with three hits and two RBIs. Montoya and Tafoya added two RBIs each and both players hit triples.

With his team red hot, is Candelaria concerned that his top two pitchers are underclassmen?

“It’s not shocking that those two guys (Montoya and Candelaria) are our number one and number two. I’ve had all these boys since they were 4 or 5 years old coming up. It’s been the same two guys that have done it for us year after year. So, it’s not shocking, and you know, our seniors trust them, and they support them. They stand behind them, and those two young boys know they carry a lot of weight on their shoulders,” Candelaria said.

Magdalena finishes its district play on April 27 with a Thursday doubleheader against Penasco starting at 3 p.m.