This year’s Cardinals took the field Friday night following a day of pictures, opening ceremonies, and a parade. The first Friday of the CMWS is a grind, and unprepared teams who happen to draw a Friday evening game always get trounced for not managing the day properly. The host team has no excuse for this since they know exactly what to expect and rarely plays poorly on Friday night when they draw that game. This Friday Dominic Moreno will take the ball, and he is no stranger to either the CMWS or opening ceremonies prior to a big start. The annual Knothole Day event includes the last regular season meeting between rivals Farmington High and Piedra Vista High as well as the FABC opening ceremonies for the 12 and under age groups.
For the FHS and PV players, that typically means standing in line and high-fiving each of several hundred players as they run across the diamond at Ricketts. It can take over an hour and has a way of delaying the game a couple of hours. Moreno threw the Knothole Game in 2011 and won, so he’s dealt with distractions before and succeeded in doing so. Dominic has had a stellar career here in Farmington, and, if Friday night is his last start at Ricketts, he will be remembered fondly. Moreno was also a member of the 2010 Cards and started their 4th round game against the Arizona Firebirds. While he took the loss that night, he threw well enough to keep the game tight and flashed the quality stuff that ultimately led to his signing at Howard College in Big Spring, TX, one of the finest JUCO programs in the United States.
Moreno was not the only standout pitcher on the Cards CMWS roster, a staff that will go down as the finest a host team has ever produced. Led by pitching coach and manager Griffin Phelps, the Cards’ Series staff also included Jake McCasland who was drafted by the Giants in the 38th round and later offered second round money, which Jake turned down to attend UNM where he collected 15 starts as a true freshman. The staff also included Eli Freese who signed at UNM out of FHS before transferring to NMJC where he threw 53 innings before injury ended his season. Tim Bailey also attended UNM in 2011 and tossed 53.2 innings following a terrific relief appearance against the Firebirds after Dominic left the game. Freese and Bailey both posted ERA’s in the 4.50 realm and both were considered weekend starters. Adrian Houser, a regional pickup, won a state title in Oklahoma in 2011 after signing at the University of Oklahoma. That commitment never materialized, however, as Houser was drafted by the Astros in the 2nd round of June’s draft and signed a week or so later. Houser currently has a 4.33 ERA in 6 professional starts and has a very bright future in front of him. Joining the Cards out of the 2010 South Plains regional was Philip Wilson, who had a nice relief outing against DBAT in the third round. Wilson is back for the 2011 Series and is projected to start the Cards 2nd game. Philip is signed at Oral Roberts and, with three effective pitches and quality command of all three, should be one of the better freshmen arms in the Big XII. The Cardinals staff also had a strong lefty presence in 2010 with Robbie Ingram from Flagstaff, AZ. Ingram started against DBAT and had a solid outing in a game the Cards eventually lost in large part due to not producing enough offense against Archie Bradley (7th overall to the DBacks), a common problem nationwide. Ingram pitched for Yavapai College in 2011 and was drafted in the 45th round by the Pirates in June. Starting catcher and 2-way standout and starting catcher, Andrew Castillo, did not step onto the CMWS mound, but he certainly was a huge reason they were there in the first place. Castillo spent 2010 with Eastern Arizona, but was injured early on after a hot start as a 2-way guy. Rounding out the staff were Castillo’s teammate at Eastern Arizona Jesus Carlos, Durango’s Austin Rochford (Trinidad State), and Shiprock’s Bryce Rockwell, the first Shiprock player to ever appear on a CMWS roster.
It’s not so much that this staff had more upside than other staffs individually. For instance, the 2002 Sky Sox had Danny Ray Herrera who has reached the Big Leagues. The 2003 host team, the Farmington Virus, featured Mike Dunn who is currently setting up for the Marlins. Josh Karp (Bandits, 2008) was a first-rounder and tossed a shutout against East Cobb for Christ’s sake. It was that the Cardinal staff had remarkable depth. The Cards had 6 guys who had reached 90 mph, 4 guys who were 6’4” or taller, quality secondary offerings, good command, multiple draft picks and D1 signees, and past success against good opponents. Their staff was very capable of getting the best hitters in the United States out consistently. The CMWS is won and lost largely on the mound, and 2011’s Cardinals pitchers have big shoes to fill. It’s a blessing to have players like Moreno and Wilson to hand the ball to at the beginning of the game who know what the CMWS stage is like, and we at the Sombrero are psyched to see how they do their second time around.