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Pueblo Azteca’s run at ‘Nuch baseball championship ends in loss to Parker Lightning

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Jul. 18—For Pueblo Azteca, Saturday was about winning and winning again.

The first win didn’t happen, so the next game meant little.

Azteca dropped a 9-4 decision to Parker Lightning at Hobbs Field and was eliminated from championship aspirations. It also lost the nightcap, falling to 4-Corners 3-2, finishing 1-4 in pool play in the American Division.

That wasn’t good enough to reach the tournament semifinals.

The local Pueblo team, one of 12 in the 41st annual Tony Andenucio Memorial Baseball Tournament, had dug a hole for itself over the first two days of the four-day affair. After knocking off Grand Junction 2-0 on Thursday, Azteca was swept on Friday, falling to Cherry Creek 12-3 and Burkburnett (Texas) 10-9.

That put the onus on winning both games Saturday to have a chance to reach the semifinal bracket on Sunday and keeping hope alive to play in the title game.

It didn’t happen.

Azteca failed to keep Parker’s offense at bay and had trouble scoring itself, leaving 12 runners aboard, including seven in scoring position.

The Lightning plated a pair of runs in the first inning, added four more in the fourth and single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh.

Meanwhile, Azteca left baserunners on in all but one inning one in the first, two in the second and third, another in the fourth and the bases loade—d in the fifth and seventh.

“We just didn’t play clean baseball,” Azteca coach Mike Sanchez said. “We didn’t put tall three areas of the game together.

“We built innings and put ourselves in good position to scratch some runs, just didn’t get the swing. A lot of high-ball chase late in the count, they elevated the ball. And we didn’t field the bunt and didn’t play catch.

In Saturday’s first Azteca game against Parker Lightning, inclement weather delayed the game. A lightning delay (no pun intended) of one hour and 40 minutes forced the final game to run past 11 p.m..

As the day unfolded, nine of the 12 teams in the tournament had a legitimate shot to reach the semifinals in bracket play on Sunday. It was a battle for sure.

In the end, Parker Lightning and 4-Corners emerged out of the American Division and Colorado Recruits and Diamond Club came out of the National Division.

4-Corners finished as the No. 1 seed, clinching the spot with its win over Azteca and finishing 4-1 in the division.

Parker earned the No. 2 seed, also finishing at 4-1 but losing the tiebreaker to 4-Corners after losing in the head-to-head matchup 13-4.. ….

The Colorado Recruits went through pool play with a 4-1 record, losing only to Cheyenne (Wyoming) 7-1 before completing the run with a 5-1 win over Greeley on Saturday.

Diamond Club, a first-time ‘Nuch participant, also reached the semifinals with a 4-1 record, clinching the No. 2 seed from the National Division with a 6-4 win over Cheyenne..

Diamond Club’s lone loss was to Colorado Recruits 9-2 in the first game of the tournament on Thursday.

Diamond Club will meet 4-Corners in the first semifinal at noon Sunday on Hobbs Field. Colorado Recruits will tangle with Parker at 2:30 p.m. on Hobbs. The winners square off at 7 p.m. at Hobbs Field for the championship.

Chieftain senior sports reporter Jeff Letofsky can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeffletofsky

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