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Dove Creek opens Cortez Tournament with loss to Nucla

Dove Creek senior Hayden Gray prepares to release the ball while pitching a scoreless inning in his team's loss.
Mustangs defense stymies Bulldogs during 8-4 loss

Time and time again during their 8-4 loss to Nucla High School in the opening game of the Cortez Tournament on May 13, members of the Dove Creek High School baseball team smashed balls to the outfield.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs however, the vast majority of those balls were corralled by Nucla’s speedy outfielders, who saved numerous doubles and came up with two diving catches during what was a back-and-forth game.

“We couldn’t catch a break,” Dove Creek senior Hayden Gray said. “This was one of the better games we were hitting all year, but we were hitting it right to them. I don’t know what happened really. That was definitely a game that we should have been putting up runs. We just couldn’t find any I guess.”

Starting on the mound for the Bulldogs in the loss was senior Branson Smith, who threw several quality curve balls, but was ultimately undone by a tight strike zone and several solid hits by the Mustangs.

Over the course of five innings, Smith yielded eight hits and eight runs, five of which were earned, while striking out two batters.

“He looked good, he was hitting some spots and maybe not getting a few calls that the next umpire is going to make,” said Dove Creek manager Trent Daves, when asked about Smith’s performance. “That’s baseball man. Some days, it’s just not your day.”

Dove Creek senior Isaiah Knox lines a ball down the third base line during his team's 8-4 loss to Nucla on May 13.

Trailing 3-0 at the end of one inning of play, the Bulldogs scored their first run of the game when freshman Jon Purkat, who attends Dolores High School, lined a sharp two-out single to center field to drive in his team’s first run.

Two innings later, Purkat made a nifty play in the field when he smoothly fielded a hard-hit grounder near the second base bag and started a beautifully-turned double play to end a Nucla scoring threat in the third inning.

Behind 8-1 after five innings of play, Dove Creek did its best to claw back when senior Isiah Knox smashed a hit to the wall in left center field that drove in Gray from first base. Knox later scored on a grounder by sophomore Cole Tabor. Tabor scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.

Dove Creek freshman Jon Purkat rounds second base while focusing on a fast-moving ball during his team's four-run loss to Nucla.

The late rally did not prove to be enough however, as the Bulldogs were unable to score in the seventh inning and ultimately lost by four runs.

Among the bright spots in the Dove Creek loss was a scoreless inning of pitching by the team’s ace pitcher, Gray, who has been battling shoulder soreness throughout the early stages of the year.

“It was good to see Hayden back on the hill,” Daves said. “He has been battling a shoulder injury and it was uplifting to see him back out there.”

With their record now at 1-4 overall, Dove Creek will look ahead to its final game of the Cortez Tournament, which will take place against Montezuma-Cortez High School on May 15.

Dove Creek senior Branson Smith delivers a pitch during his team's 8-4 loss to Nucla.