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Bayfield baseball begins final push

Wolverines begin ‘great eight’ phase Friday in Greeley
Bayfield Baseball head coach Bert Miller speaks with seniors Caden Wood and Noah Chamblee (21) on Saturday morning during the 3A-Region III Tournament finale – relocated to Ignacio High School due to inclement weather. The Wolverines made do, ripped Lamar 11-1 and will next play Friday (May 26) in Greeley as one of eight teams remaining in the Class 3A State Championship hunt. (Joel Pries/Special to the Herald)

Slamming 19-seed Strasburg 15-1 on Saturday morning, Lamar had shown plenty of boom amid the early, inclement gloom overshadowing Ignacio High School Field.

IHS was used as an alternate venue for 3A-Region III play after hosting Bayfield’s diamond was doomed by the previous evening’s deluge – one inning into LHS and SHS game with Lamar holding a 2-0 lead.

If there was one crucial take-away from BHS’ subsequent 11-1 silencing of the Thunder in the tourney finale, it was that the Wolverines appeared ready to do battle upon any surface, anywhere – including Greeley-based University’s grounds, site of third-seeded Bayfield’s clash on Friday (May 26) with No. 11 Colorado Academy in the 2023 CHSAA State Tournament’s ‘Great Eight.’

“Home-field advantage, you can look (forward) to, but overall it’s just how your team plays,” sophomore left fielder Micah Cornelia said, following an understandably mellow celebration in Bobcat habitat. “We just look forward to the game; where you’re playing really doesn’t matter.”

“No matter the field, we know what we can do,” senior shortstop/outfielder/pitcher Caden Wood said. “We’re a hitting team, a fielding team – and when we play as a team, we win as a team. It’s just great baseball.”

“We’ll be on University’s side of the bracket,” he said. “But either way, we’re going to … play our ball and do our thing.”

Having won 11 of 12 games since an April 1 road loss at 2A Buena Vista, Bayfield (now 18-4 overall) will look to rein in the Denver-based Colorado Academy Mustangs, third place in the Metro League during regular-season play, in a 9 a.m. contest Friday. Entering on a five-game winning streak after blanking 22-seed Ault Highland 10-0 and upsetting No. 6 Arvada Faith Christian 7-2 to win Region VI, Academy stands 18-6 overall.

“I’m just excited … kind of speechless right now,” said BHS catcher Nic Twedt, who led off all four of the Wolverines’ at-bats in the rout of 14-seed Lamar. “I was going to be really sad if I didn’t get to make it to state as a senior.”

“I mean, it’s the last time that I get to play with guys I’ve grown up with since, like, T-ball and stuff,” said senior Lance Mazur, who struck out nine LHS hitters in earning a complete-game victory on the mound. “And with how close we were last year, we want to go further and make it something special.”

The BHS-CA winner will then face either No. 2 University (23-2) or No. 7 Delta (20-5) at 2 p.m. at Butch Butler Field, where the Wolverines’ 2022 season ended with an eight-inning, 7-6 loss to Sterling. Now under Scott DiOrio after Mike Mendenhall departed to become head softball coach at McCook Community College in Nebraska, SHS’ 2023 campaign was cut short in the Delta-hosted Region VII championship as the Panthers – Western Slope League runner-up – prevailed 14-3.

The Bayfield and Colorado Academy loser, meanwhile, will next play either University or Delta at 9 a.m. Saturday, at either UHS (should Delta lose to the Bulldogs) or Butch Butler (should the ’Dogs lose to DHS).

Should the Wolverines advance to, and win the scheduled 2 p.m. game on Day 1, they would next play at Butch Butler on Day 2 at 2 p.m., hoping to become the king seed in the state championship, to be played June 3 at Butch Butler.

“When we do our thing we play like what we did in Cortez (on May 13) that first game, and put up 15, 20 runs. We’re one of the best-hitting teams in the state, so that’s all we’ve got to do,” said senior first baseman Noah Chamblee. “And we’ve got Lance, Jackson (Queen; CG, 7 IP, 10 K in a 3-2 win over No. 30 Bennett on the May 19) on the mound and they’re going to shut teams down. We’ve just got to do what we do.”

“I think our chances are good,” Wood said. “I think we definitely have a chance to go to the final game, and we all believe that too. We’ve just got to play our ball and we know we can get there.”

On the opposite side of the ‘Great Eight’ bracket are 1-seed Eaton (25-0 overall), 4-seed New Castle Coal Ridge (25-0), 5-seed Montezuma-Cortez (21-4) and 25-seed Lafayette Peak to Peak (12-13).

M-CHS and CRHS will square off at 11:30 a.m. Friday, immediately following Bayfield and Colorado Academy at UHS, while returning state champion Eaton, currently on a 37-triumph tear dating back to last spring – will face Peak to Peak in the 9 a.m. eye-opener at Butch Butler.