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Pirates battle Monte at IML baseball tourney

It took extra innings to squash the playoff hopes of the Pagosa Springs High School baseball team at Saturday’s Intermountain League tournament in Alamosa, where the Pirates fell to Monte Vista 11-10 in nine innings.

Facing Monte Vista ace Max Whitmer, who struck out 14 Pirates on April 24, Pagosa tallied as many hits in the first inning Saturday as they had in the entire previous game facing Whitmer.

In the top of the first inning, a walk to Paul Hoffman, singles by Koby Close, Jared Caler, a double by Austin DeVooght and a single by Tyler Sharp produced four runs to give Pagosa an early lead. Monte Vista scored two in the bottom of the inning.

The Pagosa offense struck again in the top of the second when a hit by Hoffman and a suicide squeeze by Shawn Blanchard pushed two runs across the plate.

Monte Vista again fought back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the third to come within one run of Pagosa, 6-5.

The top of the fourth inning began with a triple by Hoffman, who, on a throw over the third baseman’s head, attempted to score, but was thrown out at the plate. Despite the unusual first out, the Pirates were able to score when Blanchard and Close singled, advanced on wild pitches, and scored on grounders.

Monte Vista, however, struck again in the bottom of the inning, tying the score at 8-8.

Pagosa was able to regain the lead in the top of the 5th when the first two base runners reached without hits. Sharp reached on an error, then Mason Laverty was hit by a pitch. The runners moved up on a ground out and scored on the Pirates’ second suicide squeeze, this time executed by Hoffman.

Not giving up, Monte Vista again tied the score, 10-10, in the bottom of the sixth inning.

No more runs crossed the plate until the bottom of the ninth inning, when Monte Vista took their first lead of the game, and the win.

While no runs crossed the plate, the Pirates recorded eight hits in the final four innings, and left the bases loaded in three of the four innings.

Pagosa also defensively worked their way out bases-loaded situations twice, in the sixth and seventh innings.

“They just played sensationally,” coach Dave Close said of the game.

Overall, the Pirates went 5-13 on the season, but left coach Close with positive feelings.

“In 40-plus years of coaching, I’ve never seen a team come this far,” Close said. “The most you can expect as a coach is for a team to improve as much as they can.”

The loss ends the high school careers of five seniors — Hoffman, Caler, Sharp, Preston Dale and Jared Burch.

At the plate

• In his last high school game, Hoffman recorded three hits, including a triple and a double. Freshman Blanchard also tallied three hits on the day.

• Close, Caler, DeVooght, Sharp and Laverty each notched two hits on the day, contributing to the team total of 17, Close said.

• Close reached base six times in six plate appearances with two hits, a fielder’s choice, and three walks.

In the field

• Hoffman pitched all nine innings. “He’s one tough kid out there,” said Close.

• Coach Close highlighted two “fabulous” plays by right fielder Dale.

• Koby Close, as catcher, stopped eight balls in the dirt with a runner on third in the final three innings.

randi@pagosasun.com