At times during the Montezuma-Cortez High School baseball team’s games against Pagosa Springs on April 13, the wind became so cold that players pulled hoods over their faces and coaches shivered in the dugout.
Both teams struggled to register hits throughout the blustery afternoon, and although the Panthers competed hard at times, their offense struggled to plate runs in key situations. The Panthers lost, 8-7 and 2-1.
“It was definitely tough to lose those two games, especially since they were in-league,” said clearly disappointed M-CHS manager Tim Passell. “It’s really tough to take for these seniors.”
During the first two innings of the first game of the doubleheader, the Panthers offense struggled to catch up to the curveball of Pagosa Springs’ Hunter Bailey, and the Pirates jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
M-CHS hitters eventually figured things out, however, as the Panthers scored one run in the third inning and three runs in the fourth to take a 4-3 lead. A rough fifth inning for M-CHS starter Ryan Medina allowed Pagosa Springs to score four runs and pull back ahead. Heading into the seventh inning, M-CHS trailed 8-6.
Hoping to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, M-CHS benefited from a one-out single to center field by Chance Cote. Cole Herrman was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second base. Cote subsequently scored on a single by Engel to make the score 8-7.
With the game hanging in the balance and Cordell Baer at the plate, Pagosa Springs relief pitcher Shane Miller uncorked a wild pitch that traveled to the backstop, and almost immediately, Herrman took off from third base.
The Pagosa Springs catcher was able to quickly track the ball and fire it back to Miller at the plate, however, and a sliding Herrman was called out to end the game. Although Herrman appeared to disagree with the call, he acknowledged after the game that the call was not an easy one to make.
“(The umpire) saw different,” Herrman said. “He thought that (the Pagosa Springs catcher) tagged me first.”
As wind howled throughout the second game of the doubleheader, M-CHS found itself locked in a pitching duel as Engel and Pagosa Springs starting pitcher Paden Bailey fired a stream of seemingly continuous strikes.
M-CHS scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the third inning when Baer grounded to shortstop and Herrman came home from third base after reaching base earlier in the inning on a walk.
Leading 1-0 heading midway through the top of the sixth inning, the Panthers were forced to pull Engel from the game because of his pitch count, and Pagosa Springs then scored twice. M-CHS was unable to score in the bottom of the sixth inning, and umpires decided to call the game prior to the seventh because of impending darkness.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Engel, when asked about the game being called after the sixth inning. “I think we need to switch up the scheduling a little bit, maybe move (games) back a little earlier in the day, and then we’ll definitely have time to finish both games.”
Asked about his team’s play during the doubleheader, Engel emphasized that his team needs to improve its approach at the plate.
“We’re just watching pitches, and swinging at pitches that we shouldn’t be, and not being aggressive on pitches that we should go after,” Engel lamented. “Overall, we just need to come in more focused.”
Now 2-7 overall and 1-5 in the Intermountain League, M-CHS will look to put a notch in the win column when it travels to face Glenwood Springs on April 17.