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Azteca 18s Claim Escobado Crown

Play at plate ends thrilling championship game against Cherry Creek

BY JEFF LETOFSKY | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUN 24, 2019

The Azteca 18s, Pueblo’s top prep summer baseball team, was in a dogfight Sunday night. But they persevered 5-4.

Trailing 4-0 to a Marc Johnson-coached Cherry Creek team in the championship game of the Artie Escobado Memorial Baseball Tournament at Hobbs Field, it kept battling.

The same Cherry Creek team it had beaten 11-3 late Saturday night in pool play in the 10-team tournament.

Azteca pulled to within 4-2 with two runs in the fifth inning and poured across three more in the sixth to take its first lead of the game.

Cherry Creek threatened to tie the game in the top of the seventh but center fielder’s Jayden Cordova’s perfect throw to the plate and catcher Nico Cristelli cut down Trevor Moore, trying to score from second on Kyle Barkley’s single.

The bang-bang play was a thrilling ending to a thrilling title game. It made a winner of left-handed starter Nate Denniston, an all-tournament selection, who had given up single runs in the first and third innings and two more in the fourth.

“It was do-or-die. You come up and throw it hard and hope it goes the right way,” Cordova said.

“We fought through some adversity. All in all, we came out and did what we needed to do and won. Whatever works.”

The championship took some steam off last week’s disappointment when Azteca was beaten in the semifinals of the 12-team Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament, trying to become the first Pueblo team to win the crown since 1984.

“The momentum was on (Cherry Creek’s) side,” Azteca coach Mario Mattivi said. “We just told our players to keep believing and continue to do the small things. Someone has to play all seven against us.

“I’ve preached to them to keep grinding. If we play the game the right way and play it hard, it will reward us. And that’s exactly what happened today.”

After plating a pair of unearned runs in the fifth, Azteca went to work in the sixth.

Seth Mora, named to the all-tournament team, ripped a single into right field and after an out, Cristelli singled into left field. Kyle Jameson beat out an infield single that scored and after another out and a walk that loaded the bases, Tyler Barth, the tournament’s most valuable hitter, tied the game with another walk. Jameson then scored on a wild pitch with the eventual winning run.

Cherry Creek struck first as Barkley reached on a fielder’s choice, went to second on a wild pitch from Azteca starter Nate Denniston, advanced to third on Reese Zander’s single and scored on a passed ball.

The Armour went ahead 2-0 in the third as Jeremiah Sanchez, son of Pueblo West High School baseball coach Dan Sanchez, reached on an infield single, went to third on a double by Barkley and scored on a wild pitch.

Creek added on in the fourth with two more against Denniston. Ethan Lewis, an all-tournament selection, led off with a double to right and Casey Wood drove him in with a single to right field. Wood came around to score when he moved to second on a ground out, stole third base and scored on a passed ball.

Azteca had a huge opportunity in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases against Creek starter Moore, also an all-tournament selection, who had a no-hitter threw 3 1/3 innings. An two-base error in right field allowed Barth to reach second. After a strike out, Marcus Duran walked and Mora had the first hit with a bunt single.

But Barth was picked off third by Moore and Josh Velasco grounded out to get the Armour out of the inning without any damage.

Azteca chopped the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Three walks, a Creek error and Cordova’s RBI on a fielder’s choice plated two runs, closing the gap to 4-2.

Chieftain interim sports editor Jeff Letofsky can by reached at jletofsky@chieftain.com or on Twitter @JeffLetofsky

 

Escobado Championship Game

Azteca 5, Cherry Creek 4

Cherry Creek 101 200 0 — 4 7 2

Azteca 18s 000 023 X — 5 4 1

Moore, Katskee (6), Lewis (6) and Lukes; Denniston and Cristelli.

All-Tournament Team
MVP - Tyler DeClusin, Azteca 18s; Best Hitter - Tyler Barth, Azteca 18s; All-tourney - Nate Denniston, Azteca 18s; Seth Mora, Azteca 18s; Damon Elarton, Azteca 18s; Ethan Lewis, Cherry Creek; Zander Reese, Cherry Creek; Trevor Moore, Cherry Creek; Josh White, St. Mary's; Jordan McDonald, Cage Rats; Dylan Smith, Fountain-Ft. Carson; Hayden Cooper, Mtn. Baseball; Jacob Hessler, Fossil Ridge; Gaven Revene, OK Whitecaps; Ethan Witzel, Lightning 17s; Hunter Fair, Azteca 17s; Dylan Gist, Azteca 17s

-- Compiled by Jeff Letofsky