Despite a 0-3 record on the weekend, the Pagosa Springs High School baseball team had three Pirates named as tournament MVPs and a number of positive performances at the Cortez Invitational, the second tournament the Pirates have played in as many weekends.
Thursday’s game pitted the Pirates against tournament host and class 4A Montezuma-Cortez High School.
The Panthers took control of the game early, scoring four in the third inning and two in the fourth to lead the Pirates 6-0.
On the road to a hopeful comeback, Pagosa strung together two walks with three hits to score three runs in the top of the fifth inning. The hits came from the bats of sophomore Austin DeVooght and seniors Paul Hoffman and Preston Dale.
After holding the Cortez offense scoreless in the bottom of the inning, the Pirates added another run to the scoreboard in the top of the sixth, bringing them within two runs of the Panthers. Trying for more, Pagosa loaded the bases with two outs before ending the inning with a strikeout.
Having recorded two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Pirates looked to be keeping the Cortez offense quiet. Unfortunately, the quiet was disrupted by a single, followed by two doubles, mixed with three “big” errors and some wild pitches, said Pagosa head coach Dave Close, allowing four runs to cross the plate.
At that point, the game reached its two-hour time limit for tournament play, leaving the Pirates on the wrong end of the 10-4 score after five and two-thirds innings.
Hoffman pitched a complete game for the Pirates, giving up nine earned runs while striking out 10 in the shortened game.
Overall, Close felt good about the Pirates’ showing in the game. “We played very, very well, because that was the Cortez varsity,” Close said, adding that the 65-degree weather was another highlight to the game for the team.
Friday’s game saw Pagosa fall 11-5 to 2A Dolores High School.
“We didn’t play very well,” Close said, highlighting a team problem. “Once again, we’re giving up these big innings.”
Dolores’ big inning came in the second, when they put six runs on the scoreboard on three walks, two singles (and two errors by the Pirates).
Pagosa again attempted a comeback, scoring one in the second and three in the third. Highlighting the hits of the third inning was senior Jordan Caler’s double, one of his two hits on the day.
In Saturday’s game, the third and final of the weekend, Pagosa faced Montezuma-Cortez B (Cortez fielded two teams in the tournament).
“Game three was not as bad as the final score indicates,” said Close of the 14-5 loss.
After giving up two runs in the first, the Pirates’ bats came alive in the third with five runs on five hits, including doubles by junior Mason Laverty and freshman Koby Close.
“The bad thing was, after we scored five runs to make it 5-2, they score five in the bottom of the inning,” coach Close said.
Following the opponent’s rally, coach Close began experimenting with pitchers.
“That’s what we went down there for, since we can’t do much on blacktop (of the high school parking lot), we wanted to see who could pitch off a mound,” he said.
Even with three losses, the team showed enough promise and performance to have three players — Laverty, Close and Hoffman — named as tournament MVPs. Coach Close explained that each coach votes for the MVPs following each game, with two players from each team normally receiving the honor. Due to a three-way tie with two votes each, all three Pirates were honored.
At the plate
• The Pirates improved their hitting in their second weekend of action, recording 19 hits in three games, versus 18 hits in four games in Moab. The team batting average for the weekend was .288, bringing their season average to .232, up from week one’s .194.
• Three Pirates added three hits each to the team totals — Hoffman (who also scored three times), Dale and Laverty.
• Holding relatively consistent, Pagosa reached base 28 times in 75 plate appearances for an on-base percentage of .373, up slightly from Moab’s .370. While tallying more hits per game, the Pirates averaged only 3 walks per game in Cortez, versus an average of 6.5 in Moab.
In the field
• A well-fielded grounder, followed by a run to second to make a force out, by shortstop DeVooght in the game against Dolores caught Close’s eye as a good example of the kind of solid plays the team is working to make in practice and games.
• Close noted that, in addition to pitching a complete game with an impressive 10 strikeouts Friday for the team, Hoffman is a “sensational” center fielder.
• In 15 innings pitched on the weekend, the Pirates gave up 22 walks and 24 hits, while striking out 20. In that time, the opposition had 59 base runners, an average of four per inning.
Next, the Pirates (1-6) will look to defeat Alamosa Saturday at 10 a.m. in Alamosa.
In preparing to face Alamosa, Close said the team will be focusing on three key areas in practice — base running, throwing more strikes and making contact with the ball.
“We’ve got to work on better base running, and we’ve got to throw more strikes and stop walking people,” Close said.
In addition to throwing more strikes, Close hopes the Pirates will be the victims of strikes less often, especially with two outs. “We need to make more contact with two outs and make the other team at least field the ball,” he said, adding that he has seen an improvement in hitting since last weekend’s tournament.
In addition to the three areas, Close said the team is always working on improving their fielding, including working on fielding ground balls every morning in the gym using rubber baseballs.
“We get more benefit on the ground balls in the morning than on the blacktop,” Close said.