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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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Azteca's miracle run in the 42nd 'Nuch tournament ends in championship game

BY CHRIS ABDELMALEK | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUN. 20, 2022

For the first time since 2017 and only the fifth time in tournament history, the home team the Pueblo Azteca made it to the finals for the ‘Nuch Tournament. he miracle run by the host team ended when they ran into last year's runner-up, Victus Recruits, in the finals, where they fell 17-4.

Coach Dylan Gavin and the team from Pueblo impressed many folks at the tournament and will use this competition and experience and grow from this as they prepare for another tournament in less than a week.

“I couldn't be prouder of the effort, even this game, this morning, throughout the entire tournament from everyone that contributed, and everyone did contribute," Gavin said. "Congratulations to Victus Recruits, an awesome team, well-coached, with a bunch of great players. Well-deserved on their end.”

In order for the Azteca to make it to the finals, they had to first get past the defending champions from last year in 4C Prime.

Champs dethroned
In what was a wild semifinal game that saw it go into extra innings, the Aztecas were remarkably in control of the whole game up till the seventh inning. With a three-run lead heading into the final frame, the defending champs screamed their way back into the game, scoring three runs in the bottom half of the inning to tie it up.

Luckily for the Azteca, they were tied and that would force extra innings. The first two batters, Jace Barger and Matt Casillas, both got hit by the pitch in their plate appearance, and promptly after that, a sacrifice bunt by Braxton Vail moved the runners over. Cade Bleeker walked to load the bases, and Joel Gonzalez then also got hit by a pitch to force in a run.

With the lead in hand, the Azteca came up and threw three strikeouts in the bottom half of the inning to secure the win and their place in the championship game.

One and done
The championship game of the 42nd ‘Nuch tournament had the home team in it for the first time since 2017. This was also only the fifth appearance in the championship game all-time for the Pueblo team in the history of the ‘Nuch. If they would have won, it would have been their first tournament title since 1984.

The dream of the home team winning the tournament will have to wait another year after the Victus Recruits easily handled the Azteca by a score of 17-4.

But this team was not expected to get this far. In fact, most people picked them to finish fourth or fifth in the American Division.

Gavin spoke about what he hopes the players take out of this experience.

“It's something that we're always going to remember. That's what I told them after the game,” Gavin said. “I know it didn't end how they wanted it to end because they are competitors, but it's something they're always going to remember, playing in the championship at the ‘Nuch.”

Catcher Cody Macias talked about what it was like to play in his first-ever ‘Nuch Tournament.

“It means a lot,” Macias said. “We worked hard all tournament, competed, and it was just a great experience to be out here. It was awesome, you know, all the guys that took the mound, they all showed that they could pitch, showed good command of all their pitches and they just competed, and that's all you can ask in a team, is to have someone out there competing, try to win.”

This tournament run will bode well for them as they continue to grow the program with a mix of kids from the Pueblo area and some who come in from out of town to play at CSU Pueblo. The team is looking forward to carrying the momentum into next week's tournament and beyond.

“Growing and move forward,” Gavin said. “Growing and learning and maturing. You know, we had a lot of young guys that got a lot of good opportunities and a lot of older guys that lead the way, and those guys are still learning too and you can carry it into next week. We got a lot more baseball ahead of us and it's not a stopping point. It's just a building point along the way to what we're trying to do this summer.”

With more games still to play this season for the Azteca, Macias added that it's important to take a step back and remember it’s a game.

“It was a lot of fun,” Macias said. “That’s because baseball is a game. The more fun you have, the better you enjoy it. We did good, we swung the bats well, played good defense, our pitchers are good, it was a fun time.”

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.

2022 'NUCH TOURNAMENT AWARDS

All-Tournament Team
Trenton Rodriquez, Cheyenne
Ronan Hella, 4C Prime
Leon Cereceres, Rio Grande
Ben Wiliams, Burkburnett
Luke Emerson, Victus Recruits
Calab Caciar, Greeley
Jace Berger, Pueblo Azteca
Colter McAnelly, Cheyenne
Cole Toureau, CRBST
TJ Newman, Victus Recruits
Sam Lorgan, Cherry Creek
Logan Cardoza, Grand Junction
Jack Wulfert, 4C Prime
Braxton Vail, Pueblo Azteca
Ryan Griffin, Parker Lightning

Tournament MVP Award
Luke Ruby, Victus Recruits

MVP Hitter Award
Trenton Rowan, Victus Recruits

Golden Glove Award
Andrew Plutt, Pueblo Azteca

Bill Wright Umpires' Catcher Award
Cody Macias, Pueblo Azteca

Most Promising Pitcher Award
Jayden Brown, Victus Recruits

Tournament Coach Award
Eddie Williams, Victus Recruits

 

Jim DiIorio Memorial Award
Dr. Frank Childress

Carrie Andenucio Memorial Award
Jan Smith

Ike Crowell Most Improved Team Award
Pueblo Azteca

Josh Faris Memorial Award
Jake Olguin-Pacheco, Pueblo Azteca

Scott Elizondo Memorial Award
Justin Arellano, Pueblo Azteca

Mark Vunovich Memorial Award
Michael Casillas, Pueblo Azteca

Pete Giadone Memorial Award
Randy Heaton

Dr. Tony Oreskovich Memorial Award
Tyler Wilcox, Victus Recruits

 

 

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