Baseball: WR 9-10 squad opens state today

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By Mike Cote

Winning the District 1 9-10 Little League tournament didn’t afford the White Rock All-Stars much when the state baseball tournament bracket was drawn up.

White Rock was scheduled to take on a team from the Los Lunas area in tonight’s opening game at the state 9-10 tournament, which is hosted by Albuquerque’s West Mesa this season.

Win or lose, White Rock will play Saturday at 2 p.m. The tournament is scheduled to continue through at least Thursday.

Despite having to play the play-in game tonight and a possible loser’s bracket play-in game Saturday, White Rock was upbeat heading into state.

“I think we’re doing good,” White Rock manager Mick Matuszak said. “The kids are playing well.”

To qualify for the state tournament, White Rock had to survive a large 11-team field at district. White Rock won five straight district games, including a nail-biter against Santa Fe.

In the District 1 championship game, White Rock led 10-3 at one point, but Santa Fe came back to pare that lead down to 10-8 before White Rock closed it out.

“It was nerve-wracking, but it’s nice to have a close one in which we prevail at the end,” Matuszak.

White Rock pitcher Connor Mang, whom Matuszak said was throwing well throughout the postseason, was scheduled to get the ball tonight.

Mang features a good fastball that Matuszak hopes will get the squad through at least the fourth inning.

Pitchers at the 9-10 age level are limited to 75 deliveries per outing.

The goal for all the teams at state is to remain in the upper half of the bracket as long as possible, but that can be a tall order as the level of competition goes up, sometimes considerably, from that which the teams saw in district play.

Tonight’s losing team would have to win five games in five days to get to the championship series.

Matuszak, who has brought other teams to state play, knows how difficult getting through the state bracket can be.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Last year we though we were in great shape and in both games we ended up getting 10-runned.”