As it became more and more clear that 11 was Montezuma-Cortez’s magic number Saturday, Preston Davidovich chose to go above and beyond.
With a runner at second base in the bottom of the sixth inning of the 2019 Ignacio Baseball Invitational’s final contest, Davidovich fanned IHS’ Gabe Tucson for a 12th strikeout.
“He’s the ace this year, and ... he was killing it,” said M-CHS’ Ryan Medina. “I’m proud of him.”
A shutout, however, would escape him.
Removed from the mound after allowing just two hits and four walks, Tucson had been his sixth ‘K’ in 10 batters faced – Davidovich’s clean sheet was finally stained when Bobcat pinch hitter Clint Talamante-Benavidez reached on an error against Medina, allowing teammate Holland Roukema, who’d led off the at-bat with an infield single to short before stealing second with Tucson up, to reach third.
Senior Mike Archuleta’s pinch-hit ground-out to the right side then plated Roukema for an unearned run charged to Davidovich – a very small consolation prize for 2A Ignacio, as Medina then got pinch hitter Gerald Howe to pop up to second, securing an 11-1 mercy-rule victory.
“We were just coming into this game with fresh minds, not thinking about last game,” said Davidovich (W; 5.1 IP, 2 H, R, 4 BB, 12 K), referring to a late-inning collapse and 11-8 loss to 1A Dove Creek earlier in the day. “And then just doing our best, every way we can.”
After Davidovich struck out Tucson to escape a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the bottom of the first, the Panthers (2-1, 0-0 3A Intermountain) got on the scoreboard first when Tristan York, aboard on a fielder’s-choice grounder, reached second on what should have been an inning-ending bouncer, off senior Cordell Baer’s bat, mishandled by IHS second baseman Bela Torres.
York then stole third base and hustled home when pitcher Roukema’s throw to third baseman Cesar Pedregon missed its mark. Baer alertly took third on the play and scored on Medina’s subsequent single to center.
Davidovich then dodged danger in the home half of the frame, stranding Bobcats at second and third, but Ignacio (0-3, 0-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) answered with a rally-stopping double play in the guests’ fourth. Tucson managed to reach leading off the bottom of the fourth via an error, but Davidovich fanned Colten Jackson – swiftly ejected for mouthing his frustrated opinion about the off-speed delivery – and froze Torres.
A walk to 9-hole hitter Dylan Labarthe proved inconsequential, as leadoff hitter Lawrence Toledo struck out looking.
Montezuma-Cortez then broke through firmly in the fifth, chasing Roukema (L; 5 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 5 K) off the hill with three runs. Two (Baer, Medina) touched home plate via a pinch-hit single by Carson Yoder and the third (Clayton Yoder) scored on designated hitter Ty Blackmer’s one-out ground-out to short.
“After that happened we were all having fun,” said Davidovich. “We calmed down a lot, then started getting runs in because we were calm.”
Given Jackson’s spot in right field, Talamante-Benavidez dropped M-CHS pinch hitter Kerwin Tom’s inning-starting fly ball in the top of the sixth, and the Panthers proceeded to put the game out of reach. Leadoff man Dylan Kibel (1-4, R) then doubled to center off Pedregon, pinch hitter Korie Likes walked, and Baer (0-3, 3 R) plated Tom with a bases-loaded beanball.
Medina (3-4, 2 R, 4 RBI) then, for all practical purposes, put the issue to bed with a bases-clearing, spirit-crushing double to left-center, increasing Montezuma-Cortez’s lead to 9-0.
“I just had to sit back on it, drive it to a gap. Felt good!” he said. “We need to focus up a lot more – made a few errors we need to clean up – but so far we’re looking good.”
M-CHS’ targeted 11th run then came in when Clayton Yoder reached on an error at first base, advancing Medina to third. Matt Mitchell, running for Yoder, then stole second before Pedregon (0.2 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, K, HB) struck out Carson Yoder (1-2, 2 RBI). Blackmer (0-2, 2 BB, 2 RBI), however, came through with another RBI-ground-out, and Mitchell then scored when Logan Birch cracked a grounder bobbled at the hot corner.
“Overall I think we did really good,” Davidovich said of M-CHS’ efforts at the three-day meet, while looking ahead to Tuesday’s home-opening doubleheader versus 2A Del Norte, “but there’s a lot that we need to work on. Just practice … like we’re in a game, do what we can.”
In the loss to DCHS, Baer went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs and as many RBI, while Clayton Yoder went 2-4 with three RBI. Kibel went 1-4 with a double, run and a ribbie, and York went 1-3 with a walk and scored twice.
Montezuma-Cortez began the Invitational and their season with a come-from-behind 15-7 defeat of Dolores on Day 1. Overcoming a 7-4 deficit facing them after two innings, the Panthers then blanked the Bears 11-0 during the next three before the time-shortened (due to weather) clash was called complete.
Medina went 3-3 with two doubles, scored twice and drove in two, while Kibel finished 3-5 with a double, triple, run and four RBI. York was 2-3 with a run and an RBI, and Baer was 1-2 with two walks, a homer, two runs and an RBI. Ernie Padilla went 1-2 with a walk, scored once, and plated three.
DHS (2-2, 0-0 SJBL) and DCHS (2-1, 0-0) are slated to begin official SJBL play Tuesday in Dove Creek.