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Pueblo Azteca learning from play in Stan Musial World Series despite losses

  • Stan Musial World Series
    Stan Musial World Series

    Pueblo Azteca's Ryan Downs knocks a single to the outfield in the bottom of the first inning against the New Mexico Frackers on Friday at Hobbs Field during the Stan Musial World Series.[CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/AUSTIN WHITE]

  • Stan Musial World Series
    Stan Musial World Series

    Pueblo Azteca’s Ryan Downs, left, makes a catch in left field against the New Mexico Frackers on Friday at Hobbs Field during the Stan Musial World Series.[CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/AUSTIN WHITE]

  • Stan Musial World Series
    Stan Musial World Series

    Pueblo Azteca’s Freddie Smith makes a catch in right field against the New Mexico Frackers on Friday at Hobbs Field during the Stan Musial World Series.[CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/AUSTIN WHITE]


BY AUSTIN WHITE | The Pueblo Chieftain | JULY 19, 2019

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Playing in the Stan Musial World Series is more than just another tournament for Pueblo Azteca 18U.

Sure, the 9-4 loss to the Texas Prospects and 12-1 defeat to the New Mexico Frackers, both of which are 19-and-over teams, hurts, but it provides a bigger opportunity.

With many of the graduate-heavy Azteca roster moving on to play college ball, the tournament provides a preview, or perhaps even a wake-up call, to what they will be competing against come less than a year from now.

“It’s a big leap, they are a lot bigger, throw a lot harder,” Azteca’s Ryan Downs said on what the older competition teaches. “Just small adjustments, simple adjustments like early loads, mental things like moving on, next play, always having a short term memory.”

Azteca held their own in both matchups as well.

Against Texas, Azteca was leading 3-1 heading to the bottom of the third before a six-run inning provided the Prospects a 7-3 lead that they never relinquished.

Pueblo still ended up out hitting Texas 12-9 and the real difference in the game was a few defensive miscues.

“This is a great tournament for us because we have so many guys going to the next level,” Azteca coach Mario Mattivi said. “These are who these guys are going to see next month, these type of players.

“We need to have that mentality of what do we have to lose? We have nothing to lose, go after them and that’s what they should take to campus.”

In game two, Azteca held strong as well against a Frackers team that won its first two games in mercy-rule fashion.

New Mexico put up a run in the top of the first, but Azteca responded after Downs led off with a single, was moved to third on a double by Adam Muniz and then scored on a passed ball.

“It’s exciting, to come out and really have nothing to lose and just playing with my teammates and everyone around me,” Downs said. “It’s just exciting and I’m excited for everything next year and what’s to come.”

New Mexico would eventually put the clamps down in the fourth with a six-run inning that put the score at 8-1.

Mattivi said he doesn’t take any positives from losses, but seeing the fight from his crew at the end of a tough and hot summer schedule is something he knows is a big bright spot.

“This summer in general, we’ve seen some of the toughest competition we’ve seen in the last three years,” Mattivi said. “They get mad when they lose and that’s not typical for a summer team ... I’m proud of that and that’s how I know they are ready. I have no doubt on any of them.”

Speaking of summer heat, the game time temperature for Azteca’s first matchup was 103 degrees, leaving the players thankful for the slightly cool nightcap.

“I’m hoping its 60 degrees (today),” Downs said.

The Spradley Collegians stayed undefeated after day two by picking up two wins over on Andenucio Field.

The Collegians took down the Cutthroats 13-5 and then took care of the Parker Lightning 11-3, clinching a spot in the semifinals Sunday.

Azteca fell to 1-2 and will finish out their tournament today with a game at 12:30 p.m. against Sterling and then one more at either 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. depending on their finish in the Pool B standings.

Spardley will play the New Mexico Otters at 1 p.m. today and then either 10 or 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the semifinals, also depending on its finish in pool play today.

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