Only three teams have been in the Pecos League since it’s inception in 2011. While the Alpine Cowboys and Roswell Invaders are the two most successful teams in the independent league, the White Sands Pupfish haven’t made the playoffs since that first season, and have amassed an increasingly bad record. They bottomed out in 2018 with a 7-51 result.
“The last two years, they didn’t have a manager from the start to the end,” said Cowboys head Coach Sean Persky after beating White Sands 9-1 and 15-4 in a June 22 doubleheader. “It was player-run, and that’s an extremely tough situation to be in. This year they picked up a phenomenal guy, Matt Chambers, who does a great job as head coach for them.”
Unlike Alpine that does a lot of recruiting, the Alamogordo, New Mexico team relies on players sent to them from the league office to fill out their roster.
“It’s a tough hand to get dealt,” said Persky. “They’ve picked up some new additions who are helping them. It’s more well-rounded team for sure.”
The second game was also the first game back for infielder Ellington Hopkins after a bad hop broke bones in his face early this season. It was the last thing the third-year Cowboy needed as he fights for playing time on the best team in the league.
“I was just itching to get back out,” said Hopkins, who collected two hits and an RBI in his return. “I’ve never really dealt with an injury like that. Every time my number gets called, I'm ready to play.”
The Cowboys are 9-2 against the Pupfish, but have beaten good teams as well to reach their 21-4 mark through Tuesday. White Sands graciously agreed to play two games on Saturday and cancel Sunday’s contest, and that allowed Alpine more travel time up to Trinidad, Colorado.
The Triggers and the Cowboys faced off 22 times last season, including the Mountain Division Championship playoff series. This year, the rivals are only scheduled to play eight times, so Alpine wins on June 24-25 were vital victories.
Jake Waters won again, pitching six innings on Monday, and lowering his ERA to 2.32 in 2019. He leads the team in strikeouts with 38 in five starts.
Closer Andrew Click has been great out of the bullpen, and struck out the side in the ninth inning in 6-3 and 11-10 wins in Trinidad. Matt Eiel and Jake Woods also helped seal the Tuesday victory with their consistent relief pitching.
Since Webb Little and his twin brother Sam arrived in West Texas, they have each been hitting over .400 in the heart of the Cowboys order. Webb was the star on June 24, however, as he spearheaded an Alpine comeback. He had two home runs, including a three-run shot that tied the game at 10 in the seventh inning.
An Ely Gallego bases-loaded walk one inning later gave the Cowboys a lead that the relievers protected. Webb Little now leads Alpine with six home runs and 30 RBI in just 17 games.
“It’s just another group that has great comradery,” said Hopkins. “We can settle our differences when we need to, and I think we have a very intelligent team this year, especially from the hitting perspective.”