The sixth-ranked La Junta High School baseball team got off to a slow start when it played Pueblo County Monday on Hobbs Field at the Runyon Sports Complex.
The Hornets took a 6-0 lead after two innings of play. The Tigers made a comeback and cut the deficit to just one run. La Junta had several more opportunities to score late in the game, but came away empty as Pueblo County held on for a 6-5 win.
"We dug a pretty deep hole early," said LJ coach Ryan Denahy. "We turned it around nicely and we stayed in it all game long. We battled, put the bat on the ball, and had some good plate approaches.
"We did a good job of playing team baseball, manufacturing runs and moving runners with the bunt. In the end, we came up a few plays short."
The Hornets struck for two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Ryan Downs and Cole Martino both drew walks, and both moved up a base on Trevor Thomas' groundout. Rocco Bottini singled home both runners for a 2-0 lead.
Pueblo County scored four more runs in the second. Derek Domenico led off by reaching on an error and he was bunted to second by Jace Barger. Darian Torres also got on base via an error to give the Hornets runners at the corners.
Chase Hartman doubled home both runners, and Hartman scored on Downs' triple. Downs came home on a wild pitch to increase the Hornets' lead to 6-0.
The Tigers' comeback started with a four-run third. Riley Romero was hit by a pitch, Ryan Malden singled and Jon Nuschy walked to load the bases. Chance Oquist cleared the bases with a double to reduce the deficit to 6-3.
Jay Paolucci singled to plate Anthony Torrez, who was courtesy-running for Oquist, to bring the Tigers within 6-4.
La Junta scored another run in the fourth. Cody Schrock led off with an infield single and he moved to second on Romero's sacrifice bunt. Diego Haun's single brought Schrock home.
The Tigers were able to put runners in scoring position in the final three innings including loading the bases in the seventh. But all three times, the runners were left stranded.
Oquist was La Junta's starting pitcher and he was tagged with the loss. He allowed six runs and six hits and he also had four strikeouts and two walks.
Nuschy relieved Oquist in the fifth and he finished the game. He gave up no runs and one hit and he struck out two and walked one.
The Tigers collected 11 hits and they were led offensively by Paolucci, who went 3-4 with a double and one RBI, Malden, who went 2-4, and Addington, who went 2-4.
Oquist led in RBIs with three.
La Junta, however, left 10 runners on base with seven in scoring position.
Tigers travel to regionals
La Junta (16-7) will travel to Delta for the Class 3A Region 4 Tournament this weekend.
The Tigers will play Kent Denver (10-12) in the first round. The other game will have host Delta (19-4) taking on Montezuma-Cortez (10-10).
The Delta/Montezuma-Cortez game will begin at 10 a.m., followed by the La Junta/Kent Denver game at 12:30. The winners of the two games will meet in the championship at 3 p.m.
"Our mindset is we're going to take two," Denahy said.
Other T-PL teams in regionals
Six other Tri-Peaks League teams will be in regional action this week
Florence (13-8) will be in the Region 3 Tournament hosted by Peak to Peak and the Huskies will play Alamosa (13-8). The other game in that tournament will have Peak to Peak (16-5) playing Estes Park (11-11).
Trinidad (12-8) will be in the Region 5 Tournament at Eaton (18-3), and the Miners will play the host Fighting Reds. The other game will have Jefferson Academy (12-8) against Cedaredge (12-11).
Manitou Springs (10-13) and Buena Vista (12-10) will be at the Region 7 Tournament at Sterling. Manitou will play Sterling (19-3), the host team, and Buena Vista will play Lutheran (12-9).
St. Mary's (17-6) will host the Region 8 Tournament and Lamar (9-12) will also be in that bracket. St. Mary's will play The Academy (9-10), and Lamar will play Brush (12-9).
The remaining three regionals will have University (21-1) hosting the Region 1 Tournament and it will play Middle Park (12-7). Valley (10-11) will play Faith Christian (11-10-1) in the other game.
Bennett (16-7) will host the Region 2 Tournament and it will face Bishop Machebeuf (10-13). The other game will have Colorado Academy (17-3) against Platte Valley (7-13).
The Region 6 Tournament will be hosted by Bayfield (14-9) and it will host Strasburg (8-9). The other game will be between Resurrection Christian (15-6) and Pagosa Springs (10-11).
The winners of each of the eight regionals will advance to the Class 3A State Tournament in Greeley. The state tourney is a double-elimination format and it will take place May 24-25 and May 31-June 1.
Pueblo County 6, La Junta 5
La Junta 004 100 0 — 5 11 3
Pueblo County 240 000 x — 6 7 1
Oquist (L), Nuschy (5) and Frankmore. Martino (W), Biddle (4) and Hartman.