Pirate baseball team plays at Cortez, hosts home game Saturday

Bringing home a mixed bag from the Cortez Tournament last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Pirate baseball team showed at least a glimmer of promise — but plenty of room for improvement.

A young team (none of this year’s nine starters served in last year’s starting lineup), the Pirates have 10 games left this season to gain some much-needed experience and improve a record that has, thus far, been unspectacular.

“We’re struggling but we’ve got a good team,” said Pirate coach Justin Caler, “We need to start throwing strikes and fewer walks. We need to stop beating ourselves.”

Missing their catcher, Don Ames (out with an ankle injury), the Pirates were at a distinct disadvantage going into the tournament. With the team’s reserve catcher, Paul Hoffman, pulling duty on the mound, the Pirates were forced to place a tenderfoot Cody Bowdridge behind the plate. “It was his first time at catcher and we had to switch our guys around, which really hurt us,” said Caler.

Down 0-2 at the end of the first of their Thursday match against the Shiprock, N.M. Chieftains, the Pirates came back with two runs in the second to tie the game. Scoreless in the bottom of the third, the Pirates gave up seven runs to Shiprock, allowing five errors in a row after the Chieftains loaded the bases. Despite matching three runs in the fourth, the game was called after a scoreless fifth inning due to an eight run out tournament rule, handing the Pirates a 12-4 defeat.

“Walks and errors killed us in the third,” said the coach, “We just couldn’t pull it out, we beat ourselves in that inning.”

Facing the Kirtland, N.M. Broncos on Friday, the Pirates weren’t able to put any spark into their batting order.

“The Kirtland pitcher was decent but he wasn’t throwing anything we can’t hit,” said Caler.

Down 1-0 at the end of the first, the Pirates allowed three more Bronco runs in the second. After both teams went scoreless in the fourth, the Pirates allowed another four runs in the fifth inning, taking a 0-8 defeat after the game was called early due to the same rule that cut Thursday’s game short.

“We just couldn’t swing the bat,” Caler said, explaining the loss.

Up against the 5A Colorado Springs Palmer High School Terrors on Saturday, for the final game of the tournament, the Pirates finally started giving hints of a promising season ahead. After a scoreless first inning, the Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the second and followed up with four more runs in the third, shutting the Terrors out for the first three innings.

“We played perfect for three innings,” Caler said, “as good as we’ve played all season. Ames pitched well. He started off hurt but came back well and shut out a 5A Palmer team for three innings.”

Unfortunately, the Pirates’ defense broke down in the fourth, allowing three runs by the Terrors while unable to garner any of runs of their own. The slide continued as Palmer scored seven more runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth, shutting out the Pirates for four innings and handing Pagosa a 5-12 defeat.

Despite the losses, Caler remains optimistic for the season ahead, saying, “Even though we’re losing games, we’ve been playing tough teams out of conference and it’s going to be good us, preparing the team for conference play in the weeks ahead.”

Caler also noted that Hoffman and Michael Henderson were awarded all-tournament honors in Cortez.

Playing their first game at home this season, the Pirates host the Alamosa Mean Moose at 11 a.m. Saturday at the PSHS baseball field.

jim@pagosasun.com