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In The Hunt

  • 'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington
    'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington

    Pueblo Azteca second baseman Adam Muniz slides as he catches a fly ball along the right field line against Farmington during the 'Nuch baseball tournament on Saturday at Hobbs Field. [CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/ZACHARY ALLEN}

  • 'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington
    'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington

    Pueblo Azteca's Josh Velasco throws out a pitch on the third day of the Andenucio Memorial Tournament in their matchup against Farmington on Saturday at Hobbs Field [CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/ZACHARY ALLEN]

  • 'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington
    'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington

    Pueblo Azteca's Tyler Barth stretches to get the out against Farmington on the third day of the Andenucio Memorial Tournament on Friday at Hobbs Field. {CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/ZACHARY ALLEN}

  • 'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington
    'Nuch: Azteca vs. Farmington

    Pueblo Azteca's Kyle Jameson swings on a pitch against Farmington on the third day of the Andenucio Tournament on June 15, 2019 in Pueblo, Colo. {CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/ZACHARY ALLEN}


Pueblo Azteca claim American Division title at the 'Nuch to qualify for today's semifinals

BY AUSTIN WHITE | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUN 16, 2019

Playing five games in three days during pool play ravishes through pitching and it takes gutsy performances on the mound in order to have something left for championship Sunday.

Pueblo Azteca received yet another gritty pitching display Saturday from Josh Velasco when he gave up only three hits in a complete game after allowing four runs in the first inning.

The offense wasn’t on like normal, but Azteca still pulled through 5-4 over Farmington on Hobbs Field to clinch the American division and move into the semifinals today.

″(Velasco) just started working down,” Azteca coach Mario Mattivi said on what changed for Velasco after the first. “He came in (after the sixth inning) and I said ‘You’re at 109 (pitches)’ and he said ‘I don’t care, I want it,’ and he proved it.”

A couple passed balls scored the first run for Farmington, followed by three singles that helped scored the other three runs in the first frame.

From there, the emotions changed in Velasco.

“To start the first inning, I got touched up and it makes me mad to get hit right away early,” Velasco said. “I decided to just pitch angry I guess. It helps with keeping the arm going and keeping everything intense.”

The anger from Velasco was transferred to the Farmington dugout as they only found three more hits in innings 2-6.

Velasco didn’t give many free bases either as the only other batters to reach base were on a couple walks in those same innings, giving Velasco four for the game.

“When we tied it up, Velasco said ‘It’s a new game,’” Mattivi said. “I couldn’t be prouder of that performance. That’s another pitcher gone, but we’re still fresh.”

Despite the four spot in the first, Azteca responded with three themselves in the bottom half.

Tyler Barth and Seth Mora cranked RBI singles while Velasco’s former teammate at East High School in Freddie Smith smacked an RBI double down the right field line to bring home the third run.

“Our boys stick so I had no doubts that they were going to put up some runs,” Velasco said. “I said before the game that we score five a game no matter what and that’s what we ended up finishing scoring.”

However, the hitting sputtered out a bit after that first inning until Kyle Jameson woke everyone up for a second.

The former Pueblo West Cyclone started the fourth inning off with a triple to right-center and then scored on a single up the middle from Tyler DeClusin.

Even in the sixth inning when Azteca finally took the 5-4 lead, they didn’t find the big hit. Instead, Farmington’s starting pitcher Ronald LaDue helped out.

After getting two outs, he hit Adam Muniz and Mora back-to-back to load the bases with DeClusin on third.

Smith came to the plate and on LaDue’s 130th pitch, he was walked to bring home what turned out to be the game-winning run after Velasco finished the game with a 1-6-3 double play in the top of the seventh.

“That just speaks volumes to what these guys are all about,” Mattivi said on his team winning despite a tough night. “They want to win and they want to play the hardest and they do that day in and day out ... I’m excited, I’m pumped.”

Mattivi has said from day one that he believes the crew in front of him is special and both sides of the ball have proved that over the last three days.

But all that matters now is today as Azteca will try to become the first Pueblo-based team to win the ’Nuch since 1984 when the Pueblo Elks won 10-2.

“I really wanted to pitch in the ’Nuch one time just because I’ve never done it before,” Velasco said. “Hopefully we can have a little cherry on top by winning it and I’ll really remember it.”

In the nightcap, Azteca lost 12-2 to Parker to finish 4-1 in pool play while Parker ends 3-2.

Azteca will play in the first semifinal game today at noon as the American No. 1 seed against 4-Corners, who finished second in pool play on the National division side.

The other semifinal will be played at 2:30 p.m. featuring the National No. 1 seed in Woodward and Burkburnett. The Blacksox finished tied with Cheyenne and Parker at 3-2, but their head-to-head wins over both helped advance them.

The championship game will be at 7 p.m. on Hobbs Field.

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