The Mustang baseball team, the combined varsity team of Nucla and Norwood players, won the district tournament last weekend. On Saturday, they defeated Manzanola 11-0 and then Dove Creek 13-0 to take the title. Now, the team is hosting regionals at home in Nucla this weekend.
Head coach Randy Gabriel said in district play, the team played excellent defense — some of its best this year. He said senior Will Gabriel pitched a one-hitter in the first game; sophomore Tyler Wytulka pitched a one-hitter in the second.
“The best we have played all year, we pitched really well,” coach said. “It was a one-two punch with Will and Tyler —it’s pretty special, two lefties.”
At this point, the Mustangs don’t know who they’ll face. As of press time, the Colorado High School Activities Association was still determining the details of regional play. Coach Gabriel said likely the Mustangs would know more after Tuesday.
He said he felt confident about the boys hosting what will be the top four teams, and is happy for Nucla to host the event.
“Pitching, hitting and defense we have,” the coach said. “The guys need to keep doing what we do. We don’t worry too much about the other team, we stay true to the system, we believe in each other … We call ourselves ‘brothers,’ the kids are into it, and we get better and better.”
Since the Mustangs won the state title two years ago, they have associated themselves with the theme of “brothers.”
Nucla senior Will Gabriel said he agreed the team was a close group.
“We kind of came up with that the year we won state and have stuck with that, and I think we embody it,” he said. “We are a close-knit group, we all believe in each other, and hopefully that can take us far.”
The Nucla pitcher said the collective goal is definitely for the team to make it to the state tournament next week in Denver. That happens May 14 at the All Star Park where the top four teams meet up. Still, he said he didn’t want the Mustangs to look too far into the future because it’s important to focus on this Saturday’s tournament, which will consist of three games.
“Everything is coming together, we want to keep riding the wave and see how far it takes us — hopefully the state championship,” he said. “We don’t want to look that far ahead. We need to focus on regionals this weekend.”
Norwood senior James Franklin said he agreed.
“We are looking good, and we are on a roll, and we need to keep with it and see where it takes us,” he said. “It’s cool because we always break it down with 'brothers,' and it’s cool that we are kind of a group or band of brothers.”
Franklin said he also looked forward to having the regional tournament at home. He said it felt like an advantage for the Mustangs.
“For the fans to be there, and to have that support,” he said.
Norwood senior Jace Sinks said it was important for the team to soak up the lifelong memories the team was now making.
“And we are confident in our abilities to get things done this weekend at regionals, and we are really starting to peak as a team at the correct time,” Sinks said.