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  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)
  • The 'Nuch Tournament (photos courtesy The Pueblo Chieftain)

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A slugfest plus a pitching gem send Pueblo Azteca to 'Nuch Tournament semifinals

BY CHRIS ABDELMALEK | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUN. 19, 2022

The third day of the 42nd annual Tony Andenucio Memorial Baseball Tournament saw the home team Pueblo Azteca needing two wins for a chance to play Sunday's semifinals.

With the tournament on the line, the Azteca swept their pair of Saturday games to move into second place in the American Division and advance to a Sunday semifinal matchup and a chance to play in tournament championship.

The Azteca will take on the defending champions 4C Prime at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Hobbs Field.

An early slugfest for Pueblo
The bats were hot in Pueblo's first game against the Woodward Travelers, which Pueblo ultimately won 10-5.

The Travelers jumped out to an early 1-0 led on pitcher Jake Olguin-Pacheco. Then in the bottom half of the first, the Azteca scored two of their own. Andrew Plutt and Pacheco both scored in the inning and the Azteca led 2-1 after one.

The Travelers scored four off Pacheco in the second with a series of seeing-eye singles up the middle and left side of the infield. However, not to be outdone, the home team scored three of their own in the bottom half of the inning with Pacheco helping his own cause by doubling with the bases loaded to bring home all three runs for the Azteca and tie the game at 5-5.

Pacheco then settled down and had a scoreless third inning of work. But the offense kept up its effort and outfielder Braxton Vail and infielder Mike Casillas both had RBI singles in the third. Plutt drove in a run on a fielder's choice to give Pueblo an 8-5 cushion.

The fourth inning was quiet for both teams. Then the offense for the home team put the game out of reach with two more runs in the bottom of the fifth with Mike Casillas and Plutt both scoring. With the lead at 10-5, Pacheco was able to finish off the last two innings with relative ease.

Just need one
With the win over the Travelers in the books, the Azteca put themselves in a "win and you're in" scenario. The home team needed to win the game and not give up more than three runs in order to advance on tiebreakers over the Travelers. Their opponent was a tough team from Burkburnett, Texas, the Blacksocks.

With a 4-1 win on Plutt's solid pitching, mission accomplished.

After Plutt gave up the Blacksocks' lone run in the top of the third, Azteca tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Cade Bleeker singled to right field which to score Jace Barger. In the fifth inning, Plutt was pulled with a man on second and first with only one out. Mike Casillas came in and got a strikeout and pop-out to end the Blacksocks rally.

The Azteca offense came through in the bottom of the fifth. Plutt reached first and second on two errors before scoring on a third that allowed Pacheco to reach first base safely. Pacheco promptly stole second to give Gage Martinez, the catcher, the opportunity to hit an RBI single to put the home team up 3-1.

Barger came in to pitch at the top of the sixth and after giving up a single to the first batter, struck out the next three. The Azteca added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 4-1 before Barger closed out the game with a scoreless seventh.

“It feels amazing to watch when your team is making plays behind you, not just when I was out there pitching and just making sure that we could get them out,” Barger said. “... I mean, not only did I get us there but Andrew Plutt got us here and Michael Casillas got us here. I mean, I'm just ecstatic that we pulled that game out.”

Utility player Matt Casillas, who played all over the field during the tournament, echoed his teammate.

“Jeez, it just gives us so much confidence, it takes so much stress off of our shoulders just knowing that we are that Pueblo team that made it to the semifinals, and there hasn't been a team like that in I don't know how long,” he said. “It just feels amazing just knowing that we were that Pueblo team make it.”

Coach Dylan Gavin talked about how that final game ended.

“It is fun and that game right there I told them right before that's everything that you want in a baseball game,” Gavin said. “Energy from both sides, a good crowd for a nightcap I don't know what more you can ask for.”

With the win over the Blacksocks, the Azteca knotted a three-way tie with Cheyenne and Woodward at 4-1 in the tournament. The tie-breakers settled the American Division with Cheyenne taking first place and Azteca taking second. The Travelers ended up in third due to run differential.

“We get to keep playing baseball,” Barger said. “It's one of the best sports in the world, but I mean it is 90% failure, 10% success, so we got to just keep that 10% success in our mind and be able to play and do the easy stuff.”

 Gavin also spoke about what it meant for the home team to make it to the semifinals.

“You know it means a lot for the town, it means a lot for the people that have played before us, it means a lot for the people that will play after us," he said. "It's a great representation of how we do things in Pueblo and that it's never giving up and sticking with it until the very end.”

Matt Casillas added to what his coach and teammates had to say about playing in the semifinal.

“We got to know that each team that we play tomorrow is going to be tough and we're going to have to come out with our 'A' game each game,” he said. “Every single inning, every single pitch, we just got to be ready for anything that they at throw us.”

The Azteca will face defending champions the 4C Prime team from New Mexico at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on Hobbs Ffield. Cheyenne will face Victus Recruits at noon on Hobbs Field. The winners will play in the 7 p.m. championship.

The rest of the tournament played out as well and teams from both divisions scrambled to get into the semifinals.

4C Prime lost its only game of the tournament but had done enough in the first two days to solidify its semifinal spot out of the National Division. Colorado BST defeated 4C 11-3 on Saturday.

CBST also defeated the team from Rio Grande, 12-3, ending their round-robin tournament in third place in the National Division. Second place went to Victus Recruits, which won Saturday games over Cherry Creek and Grand Junction 6-4 and 8-5, respectively. The Recruits finished 4-1, but 4C took first on run differential.

Christopher Abdelmalek is a sports reporter for the Pueblo Chieftain and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on twitter @chowebacca


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