Panthers doomed from start

Sam Green/Cortez Journal Major Lackey runs to tag third base for an out after fielding the ball against Durango on Tuesday afternoon at McAndrew Field. The Panthers lost, 13-4.

By Bobby Abplanalp Journal staff writer

Dayne Black's RBI-single in the bottom of the second inning tied rival Durango 2-2 Tuesday afternoon.

The Panthers were back in the game early on at McAndrew Field.

However, costly fielding errors in the top of the third prevented Montezuma-Cortez High School from earning its first Southwestern League win.

Three Panthers' errors during the first four batters up for Durango resulted in three runs by the visiting Demons. Durango tacked on two more in the top of the third to lead 8-2.

That bad third inning doomed the hometown Panthers, as they went onto lose, 13-4.

"We just couldn't figure out how to play defense and give our pitchers the support that they needed," first-year Panthers coach Matt Betts said. "Some errors were just routine baseball that should never happen at a varsity level. But they do, unfortunately, and we got to live with them."

M-CHS (7-11, 0-9 4A SWL) is still searching for a league win with only one more game left versus Grand Junction.

"If they don't show up ready to play, ready to compete, then they've basically lost the game before they've even showed up," Betts said. "If I can get the Cortez team that has played extra innings with Montrose, played extra innings with Fruita - if I can get that team, then (Grand) Junction better look out."

Black started on the mound for the Panthers and pitched three innings. He was relieved by Konnar McGee after giving up eight runs and seven hits. But McGee didn't fare any better in his three innings. Ryan Rich closed in the seventh.

Durango (9-9, 4-5 SWL) belted 13 hits off of M-CHS's three pitchers and only committed one error to the Panthers five.

Cole Dunegan led the Demons, going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Connar Dugan (two RBIs) and Jeremy Szura each hit 2-of-4 for Durango.

Tallon Ralstin batted 2-for-4 for the Panthers with a triple. Fellow M-CHS senior Gerardo Martinez hit 2-for-3, recording a walk and a double.

"We've had a rough season. We can't put a game together," Ralstin said. "We have the pieces to the puzzle in place, (but) we can't capitalize. It wears on your heart, because you work so hard in practice. You come up short every time."

The Panthers conclude their season this afternoon against Grand Junction (9-7, 4-3 5A SWL) at 3:30 at McAndrew Field. M-CHS lost 10-5 on the road to the Tigers back on April 13.

"I'm going to try to rally the guys in practice," Ralstin said. "Hopefully, we can come in there tough and get up early. We got to hit early and we can't get our heads down if we make one error. We got to keep our heads up and make the next play."

Ralstin indeed hopes to lay it all out on the diamond in his final game in a Panthers uniform. The catcher is looking to play college baseball in Texas next season.

"It's one last time to battle. It's one last time to fight," he said. "You never look back. We can't give up."

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