The Four Corners Clubsox became the first local team to win a regional qualifying tournament for the Connie Mack World Series, and Durango’s Gavin Mestas was a key piece to the baseball team’s success.
The Clubsox, based in Farmington and made up of players from around the Four Corners, won the Rocky Mountain Regional Qualifier last weekend in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The team went 7-1 in the tournament, with the lone loss coming to the SoCal Renegades of Huntington Beach, California, which won the 2012 CMWS and were runners-up in 2013.
The CMWS is an 18-and-under amateur baseball tournament that features 16 teams from across the country, including one representative of Puerto Rico. The tournament, sanctioned by the American Amateur Baseball Congress, has been held in Farmington for more than 50 years and has featured several future elite MLB players.
The Farmington area gets one “host” team into the tournament each year. The host team is decided through the Connie Mack city tournament each summer. This year, the Clubsox opted to attend the Rocky Mountain Regional and qualified for the CMWS by beating other elite teams from the region, not just Farmington.
The city tournament winner will still earn the host bid, giving the Farmington area two teams at this year’s CMWS for the first time in history.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Mestas, who batted second in the lineup and played third base for the Clubsox at the regional. “Our goal going into that tournament was to qualify for the Connie Mack, and we were all very determined to get that goal and reach that goal. We all took it super seriously.”
In eight games in Cheyenne, Mestas was a monster at the plate. He hit .567 (17-for-30) with eight runs batted in, six doubles, a triple, six runs scored, three walks and one stolen base.
In Wyoming, Mestas nearly matched some of his season stats during his senior season at Durango High School. In 20 games with the Demons in 2018, typically batting third in the lineup, Mestas had 10 RBIs and eight doubles.
“Gavin has been one of our top guys on the mound all summer and is our two-hole guy now and has run away with that job for the most part,” Clubsox coach and founder Mike McGaha said. “I think what we saw him do was what we expected he would be able to do when we recruited him to be a 4-C kid.”
Tyler Ruetschle, a 2017 DHS graduate who plays at Lamar Community College, provided the win on the mound in the Clubsox’s first game of the tournament. In four innings of work, Ruetschle shut down a team from Boise, Idaho, as he allowed two runs – both earned – on nine hits while he struck out eight batters and walked one en route to a 17-3 victory.
Mestas also earned a win on the mound when he pitched six innings against the Colorado Aces, a team based in Loveland. The Clubsox won 11-6 with Mestas allowing three runs – all earned – on seven hits while he struck out four batters against three walks.
However, the solid pitching performance was dwarfed by Mestas’ superb showing at the plate. He went 5-for-5 with three doubles and three RBIs in the game.
“I think the thing that happened with Gavin offensively was that prior to this year he’s always had quite a bit of football things to do in the summer, so his baseball participation was a little sporadic in the past,” McGaha said. “Through league games, with different guys not being here and others injured, it jumped Gavin way up in the lineup. His volume went up, up, up to what he’s done in the past, and I think his athleticism just caught up. I think once he got accustomed to the pitching he was going to see and got enough at-bats to get on a roll, it all took off.
“You could kind of tell when we were there almost every ball that he swung at he squared up. There was a stretch where he was 5-for-5 with three doubles, and the next game he was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple. And the ball he got out on was a warning track ball to center field. He was absolutely on fire.”
Mestas agreed with McGaha’s assessment that his breakthrough this summer has come from putting a greater emphasis on baseball after the multi-sport athlete, who also sought a place on a college football roster, decided to play baseball at Southwestern College, a junior college in Chula Vista, California. Mestas said he put twice the amount of focus on baseball this summer. He spent extra time fielding ground balls and took more batting practice. He essentially gave up the bulk of his free time in his final summer before heading off to college, time he could have spent with his high school friends before they take different paths, playing baseball and chasing his dream.
The decision to play college baseball and end his pursuit of football wasn’t easy for Mestas, who at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds recognized his size would be tough to overcome on the football field.
“That was honestly probably the toughest decision I had to make so far in life,” Mestas said of giving up on football. “I love the game of football, love the intensity of it. Baseball didn’t really have that intensity, but I’ve always loved the game and cherished every moment on the field.
“I’ve always wanted to go to California – play baseball and be at the beach on the weekends. And also my size was a big factor in this. Only being 5-11, 160, I can only do so much in football, but in baseball, you see Jose Altuve at 5-4 play in the Major Leagues. Size doesn’t matter that much in baseball and I really wanted to take that step to pursue college baseball.”
McGaha believes Mestas could have a great college baseball career and is capable of moving beyond the junior college level to play four years in college. But first, Mestas and the Clubsox are focused on the Connie Mack World Series the first week of August.
The Clubsox were eligible to play in Farmington’s city tournament to determine the host team for the CMWS. While the team already secured a spot in the series, it could have elected to play in the city tournament. Had the Clubsox won host team rights, they could have forfeited the regional qualifying spot to skip pool play and move directly into bracket play at CMWS.
But the Clubsox chose to skip the city tournament and will get a guaranteed three games in pool play opposed to the guarantee of two games in the double-elimination bracket.
“We get a guaranteed three games, which should give our local kids more exposure, which is what I’m all about,” McGaha said.
The Clubsox don’t know what pool they’ll be placed in, or who their opponents will be when pool play takes place Aug. 3-4, with bracket play Aug. 6-11. What they do know is they’ve already made history once this year, so why not again?
“I’m truly excited to play in front of our hometowns one more time. This is the first time any New Mexico team has won a regional, so why not try to make it a first and be No. 1 out of pool play,” Mestas said. “We can do something special.”