Farmington s Landon Nelson makes contact with a pitch against Sandia Prep on Saturday at Ricketts Park.
Farmington s Landon Nelson makes contact with a pitch against Sandia Prep on Saturday at Ricketts Park. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — After convincing wins against 3A Sandia Prep on Saturday, the time has come for Farmington High and Piedra Vista to focus on the looming District 1-4A baseball schedule.

Piedra Vista (11-8) defeated Sandia Prep (8-11) 13-4 at Ricketts Park before the Scorpions (12-7) took care of Sandia Prep 10-0 in five innings.

Both teams have just one game left on the schedule against a non-district opponent, both coming against Bloomfield.

"The conversation after today's game was simple. We are 0-0 again and we have to come back to work on Monday preparing for Aztec," said PV head coach Mike McGaha, whose team faces the Tigers in the district opener on Tuesday.
Piedra Vista shortstop Matt Martin makes a throw to first base during Saturday s game against Sandia Prep at Ricketts Park. Piedra Vista won the game 13-4.
Piedra Vista shortstop Matt Martin makes a throw to first base during Saturday s game against Sandia Prep at Ricketts Park. Piedra Vista won the game 13-4. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Farmington and PV have had their share of ups and downs this season and have split the two games played against each other already this season.

Unlike in recent years, McGaha and FHS head coach Sean Trotter both know the district season will be more difficult than in year's past, largely because of the improvements Aztec (13-3) has made.

"Last I looked they had won nine in a row. That group is dang athletic, and they have obviously figured out how to win games. That is important," Trotter said. "The game we had against them a few weeks ago had a different feel than a lot of the games we have played outside of PV in this district the last few years.

"You used to be able to walk through the gates and feel like you had a win. You need to have that, but now you go into Aztec and look around and that is a dang good looking group over there. Having that added to the mix is nice. Having Aztec and Kirtland competitive in this district is big, and Aztec certainly has just as good of a chance to win this district as PV or Farmington. We are looking forward to that being the challenge the next few weeks. We don't just have two district games with PV to think about anymore."

Farmington has established its starting rotation that will run three deep during the district season despite playing just two games a week.

Austin Davis, who pitched a complete game one-hitter against Sandia Prep on Saturday while striking out six, has established himself as the ace of the staff while fellow seniors Matt Huffhines and Frankie Gutierrez will fill the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.

"That is a challenge with only two games  week, but our pitching is deep enough that we can have some flexibility the next few weeks in district," Trotter said of the three-man rotation. "Davis has shown he is worth of being No. 1 and Huffhines has come along with his starts as he gets better and better. Gutierrez could be a No. 1 a lot of places. We don't have a Division I prospect on the mound, but all of the guys are high quality. With those three and the supporting cast around them, I think they certainly give us a lot of confidence and a chance to be in every game."

The starting rotation for three-time defending state champion Piedra Vista has still yet to be set, McGaha said.

The Panthers pitched by committee on Saturday against Sandia Prep with Jacy Cave going three innings before being relieved by Nate Dominguez. Dominguez pitched one inning before giving way to Ian Doughty, who was also relived after one inning by Kody Russell.

"Jacy has been battling a stiff back lately but was better (Saturday). I fully intended to leave him out there the entire game but, as soon as his command was off a bit, I didn't want him to stand out there or to have our defense standing around out there," McGaha said. "We are trying to establish a rotation. We are at the point in the season right now with the inconsistency we have had where we have to run the best guy out there and then the next best in relief. We hope guys can go out and pitch complete games but, if our starters can only give us two or three innings at a time, so be it. We have 10 guys who have thrown varsity innings and seven who have started."

PV's offense has struggled at times, too, particularly with finding hits with runners in scoring position.

Both McGaha and Trotter were happy to see their teams swing the bats well against Sandia Prep, especially with guys on base.

Jeremy Johnson was 3-for-3 for PV on Saturday with three RBIs while Doughty was 2-for-4 with four RBIs.

For Farmington, Beamer Wick went 3-for-4 while Brad Betz was 1-for-2 with three RBIs.

"I told our guys after the game, this is only the second time this year we have put a team away when we had the opportunity," Trotter said. "Right now, I am pretty confident with our lineup one through nine. There isn't a guy in the lineup where you are like 'Oh boy here we go. Hopefully he gets plunked or something.' Every guy can extend the inning."

McGaha was encouraged on Saturday by leadoff batters reaching base and his team's ability to execute sacrifice bunts.

Without the power in the lineup as the Panthers had in recent years, McGaha knows this year's team has to focus on the fundamentals and taking advantage of having runners on base.

Saturday's win was PV's first since March 28 and broke a losing streak of six games.

McGaha isn't focusing on the outcome of the district schedule. He recognizes parity across 4A baseball in the state this year, and said his team simply needs to focus on getting better each day to prepare for the big three days in the middle of May.

"I have no idea where we will end up in seeding. Miyamura looked like the would struggle early but they have gone 4-0 in their district, including a win against Los Lunas. Albuquerque Academy is something like 7-6 and so is St. Pius. Deming is looking really good and so is Aztec. For us, it is really important that they look at strength of schedule, but we have to take care of business with Aztec before we look at anything," McGaha said. "If we lose to them on Tuesday, we will be getting close to .500 and they could send us to the bottom of the seeding. We did it to ourselves and we aren't expecting any favors from the seeding committee. We are expecting the worse as far as seeing, but we know we are in the playoffs so our mission is to set ourselves up to be successful come the playoffs. Yes, we want to win the district, but right now is is far more important to get better and try to play our best come the playoffs."

For Farmington High and its stable of 10 seniors, a chance at a District 1-4A title is a high priority after PV's recent reign of dominance.

"This group of seniors are real competitive. I would definitely say that about them," Trotter said. "They will get after it for sure. They certainly have something of a chip on their shoulder. They have something to prove."

John Livingston can be reached at; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.