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Pueblo Azteca 18U baseball qualifies for Escobado semifinals

  • Azteca 18U vs. Cage Rats
    Azteca 18U vs. Cage Rats

    Pueblo Azteca's Geno Cervi delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Cage Rats in the Azteca's 12-3 win Saturday to qualify for the Escobado semifinals today on Hobbs Field. [CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/AUSTIN WHITE]

  • Azteca 18U vs. Cage Rats
    Azteca 18U vs. Cage Rats

    Pueblo Azteca's Ryan Downs makes a catch in right field against the Cage Rats during the Artie Escobado Memorial tournament Saturday on Hobbs Field. [CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/AUSTIN WHITE]

  • Azteca 18U vs. Cage Rats
    Azteca 18U vs. Cage Rats

    Pueblo Azteca's Jayden Cordova leaps and makes a catch in centerfield against the Cage Rats on Saturday during the Artie Escobado Memorial tournament on Hobbs Field.[CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/AUSTIN WHITE]


BY AUSTIN WHITE | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUN 23, 2019

For a couple hours down at the Artie Escobado Memorial baseball tournament, spectators might have had more fun watching paint dry.

Of course that’s because Mother Nature decided she didn’t want any baseball to played during that stretch as lightning and rain caused a two hour delay, leaving Pueblo Azteca 18U to start their 5 p.m. scheduled game at 8:15 p.m. instead.

But despite the delay, Geno Cervi came out and shoved on the mound and the bats stayed hot once more in a 12-3 win over the Cage Rats to secure a spot in the ’Bado semifinals today.

“It’s not hard,” Azteca coach Mario Mattivi said about keeping his guys focused through delays. “It’s nice we didn’t start the game and then shut it down.”

The delay looked like it might have had an effect on Cervi early after giving up a run in the first inning, but his boys at the plate picked him up immediately.

Azteca put up three runs before their first out thanks to three walks, a couple errors and a single from Tyler Barth.

Seth Mora cranked a single after the first out to score a couple runners which was followed by Ryan Downs hitting an RBI groundout to the shortstop to put Pueblo up 6-1.

That made heading back out onto the mound a little bit easier for Cervi in the second.

“Run support is amazing and this team is really great at it,” Cervi said. “I threw up a one in the first inning, it was pretty ugly, but they came out with a six to pick me up real quick.”

Azteca arrived at Hobbs Field around 3:30 p.m. to discover the noon game went 11 innings and then a lightning delay in the middle of the 2:30 p.m. game really started to stretch the night out.

Cervi knew early he was going to pitch, so staying focused for nearly five hours before getting to throw the first pitch wasn’t easy, especially when he only had 11 minutes of warmup time before the game.

“It’s rough just sitting around getting our bats going, you don’t want to have to keep getting them up every time,” Cervi said. “But these guys bounce back pretty easily, as you can see putting up a six-spot in the first inning. We wanted to play for a while.”

Being the Otero Junior College-bound pitcher that he is, Cervi hung in there after the first and pitched to contact and let the players behind defend.

“I said that we don’t need a power pitcher, we need a guy that can come in and get the job done by letting your defense play,” Mattivi said. “He keeps improving every start ... He’s a team guy and he’s matured every summer. I’m proud of him and all of these guys.”

The Cage Rats tried to squeak back in the third with a couple runs, but once again the Azteca offense responded, this time with two runs themselves from a double by Mora and a sac fly from Downs.

Mora and Downs both finished the game with three RBI hitting out of the eight and nine-hole, respectively.

Getting the win clinched a semifinal, but there was still more work to be done in the nightcap that began at 10:15 p.m.

Azteca was up against a fellow 3-0 team in Cherry Creek with the winner getting to hold the No. 1 spot from the division.

Pueblo took them down 11-3 to go undefeated and will play the No. 2 team from the National division at 1 p.m. and it will be either Fossil Ridge or the OK White Caps.

The championship is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

Chieftain sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at awhite@chieftain.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44.

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