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Looking for the repeat

Looking for the repeat

BY AUSTIN WHITE | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUN 8, 2019

Pueblo Azteca 18U into today's semifinals of Cherry Creek Classic Baseball Tournament 

Pueblo Azteca 18U baseball coach Matt Mattivi isn't hiding his excitement for the summer.

With a roster featuring 14 players signed to ball college ball next year and six members fresh off a Class 4A state title with Pueblo West High School, expectations are high.

For now, Azteca moves into the semifinals today in the 33rd annual Cherry Creek Classic after going 3-1 in their games over the first three days of the tournament. Last year under the Loaf 'N Jug name, Azteca won the classic and became the first Pueblo-based team to do so.

"Look at the Best of Pueblo, there's a lot of dudes on that Best of Pueblo that are on our team," Mattivi said. "Everybody on this team, at one point in their high school career, played for a good team and have won. Winning players create a culture of winning."

Mattivi admitted things got off to a shaky start in their first game as it took a few innings for everyone to get acclimated. They eventually dropped the first game 7-6 to Regis.

Nate Denniston(CHIEFTAIN PHOTO)Nate Denniston
(CHIEFTAIN PHOTO)

But the loss only fueled a 12-4 victory later in the afternoon Thursday over the Rocky Mountain Oysters to keep Azteca alive in the tournament.

Azteca remained alive Friday despite trailing 2-0 heading to the top of the seventh against Slammers-Ackerfelds. Azteca escaped the contest with a 3-2 win.

"You don't really have to tell these guys, most teams would probably panic a little bit, but (Friday) it was like nothing," Mattivi said. "For that being the third game of the season, you would think we would have been playing together for a long time and most of these guys have."

Saturday turned into the Nate Denniston show as the now Pueblo West alum and state champion threw an absolute gem.

He pitched all seven innings and only threw 67 pitches to shutout hosts Cherry Creek 9-0. Denniston gave up only one hit and walked one batter.

"Like I've said in years in past ... now we're all together, now we're just playing for Pueblo," Mattivi said. "I'm excited about this team and they can do a lot of good things."

The roster includes 18 players, 17 of which are now high school graduates as East's Nico Cristelli is the lone high schooler on the squad.

Having a veteran group that features not only state champions, but a group that's blossomed in the Steel City together presents a strong opportunity in 2019.

"I read a quote from (Cherry Creek coach) Marc Johnson after his 800th win and he said that he's like a jockey and just letting the boys run," Mattivi said. "I don't go out and hit or pitch for them, they do it. I just give them the knowledge and let them have fun."

The Azteca will play at 11:30 a.m. today against Slammars-Zavaras at Cherry Creek High School.

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

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