Peter Dindinger – NMMI Sports Press
Life has come full circle for Roswell natives Cam Stevenson, Ty Villareal and Tyler Hardwick.
Having grown up together playing little league baseball to winning a Class 5A state championship at Goddard High School in 2017, the trio is now playing junior college baseball at New Mexico Military Institute.
When the Rockets finally got their moment to lift the coveted blue trophy it was a special moment for the program. Goddard had been on the stage three times from 2014 to 2016, losing a one-run ballgame each time to finish second.
Stevenson was a junior on that 2017 squad. The following season, Goddard returned to the state title game for the fifth straight time since 2014 to fall short to Farmington High, 5-3.
Upon graduation from Goddard, Stevenson committed to the University of New Mexico where he spent a year and a half under the leadership of head coach Ray Birmingham.
NMMI head coach Chris Cook always had Stevenson on his radar, but Stevenson took a shot at playing at the Division I level.
After not receiving as much playing time as he wished at UNM, he accepted an offer to NMMI.
The decision worked out as Stevenson is hitting .356 with 11 RBIs and 16 hits thru 16 games with the Broncos. He hit his first collegiate home run during a 9-6 victory over Colby Community on Saturday.
“I think it’s pretty special, especially that you got four guys from Roswell here playing at the collegiate level,” Stevenson said. “I think it’s another chance to keep getting to know each other better and just keep growing as our friendship goes.
“It would’ve changed my life for the better to play anywhere, but it just makes it even sweeter to play here.”
Villareal was a sophomore at Goddard in 2017. Just last week the freshman earned his first accolade at NMMI by being named Western Junior College Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week.
He picked up his first collegiate win in a 10-4 victory over Western Nebraska Community College as he struck out six batters in five innings of work allowing three hits.
“It’s really cool to have my family here supporting me every game, being able to play at the next level in my own hometown is super cool,” Villareal said. “Every time I go pitch I try to do my best to help the team succeed, but to get recognized for it makes it even more special.
“It’s pretty cool to see your teammates just continue their baseball careers anywhere, but coming here when you don’t think you’re gonna know anyone but then you know some old people, it helps.”
Entering his sophomore season with the Broncos, Hardwick broke into his collegiate career by tallying a 6-6 record as a freshman, with a 3.20 ERA in 14 starts with 64 strikeouts.
This season, Hardwick has posted a 2-0 record as the ace pitcher on the Bronco staff in four starts.
The trio shares a special unbreakable bond that has helped them translate that success to the college level.
“I think it’s great to see guys I’ve played with in the past and how great they’re doing,” Hardwick said.
“It’s really good to see especially Cam and Ty out here playing. I’ve played with them since I was little. We just know what we can bring to the table basically. We know each other’s strengths, the weaknesses … we just know how to motivate each other. So, we just have that connection going from there.”
NMMI has another big test ahead this weekend as it takes on Cisco College for a doubleheader on Saturday. First game begins at 12 p.m. CST.
After that, on Sunday, the Broncos are headed to Ranger College for a two-game set before jumping into conference play March 6.