2013 team earned program’s first district title

It was seven years ago that Yuma High School baseball won its first-ever district championship.
The 2013 team set the standard in winning the program’s first district title, as well as wins in the regular season, going 15-3 heading into district.

The Indians entered the Class 2A District 7 Tournament in Akron as the second seed. Holyoke, 17-2 in the regular season, was the top seed. Sedgwick County was the third seed, Wray the fourth, Haxtun fifth, Burlington sixth, Akron seventh and eighth-seed Merino, which beat Wiggins in the pig-tail game.
The quarterfinals were held on Friday, with the Yuma-Akron game the final one on the slate.
Yuma parlayed six hits, a couple of walks and a couple of errors into a nine-run outburst in the bottom of the second for a 10-1 lead.
Five more runs off of five more hits came in the third, and four hits led to another four runs in the fourth. The game was called after the top of the fifth inning with Yuma leading 19-4.

Brody Bueltell unleashes a pitch during the semifinal victory over Sedgwick County. (Tim Sprouse)

The Indians pecked away at Akron with all but three of their 17 hits being singles. Brody Bueltell had two of the extra-base hits, a triple in the first inning that led to Yuma’s first run, and a one-run double in the second. Justin Koenig also had a double, coming in the first inning to score Bueltell after his triple. Raudel Yanez was 4-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs, Justin Koenig 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored, Bueltell 2-for-3 with one RBI and three runs, Ryan Nolin 2-for-3 with one RBI and three runs, Brody Zwirn 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs, Edgar Peña 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run, Ryan Sonnenberg one hit and one RBI, Jake Rayl one run as a courtesy runner for Sonnenberg, and Jaden Koenig 1-for-4 with one RBI and three runs.
Slade Pletcher went the first four innings on the hill to run his record to 5-0, which sets a YHS baseball program record. Peña tied the record when he recorded his fifth win the next day. Pletcher allowed four runs on five hits, struck out three and walked four. Rayl pitched the fifth, inducing three outs to the right side of the field to close out the game.
“How we played in that game set the tone for how we were going to play for the en-tire weekend,” Nighswonger said.
The surviving teams returned to Akron on Saturday for the semifinals, with Holy-oke first dispatching Wray in five innings, 10-0, featuring Brett Cummings grand slam in the second
Raudel Yanez heads to third base during the District 7 Tournament in 2013. (Tim Sprouse)
inning for a 6-0 lead. Second-seed Yuma then took to the field with senior Bueltell taking on third-seed Sedgwick County and lefty hurler Chase Dunker. It was a rubber game of sorts, as Bueltell and the Indians beat Dunker last year in Julesburg, but Dunker knocked off the Tribe and Bueltell earlier this season in Yuma.

Both put on a great pitching performance again Saturday, but Bueltell had a little more help from his teammates to pull out a 4-1 win.
Sedgwick County took a 1-0 lead in the first off a pair of singles. It could have been worse if not for Sonnenberg, Yuma’s catcher, gunning down Dunker at third on a dropped third strike, instead of throw-ing to first.
It was a strange opening inning in that Bueltell actually had four strikeouts, but two came on such nasty pitches that Sonnenberg could not handle them, allowing the batters to get down to first.
Yuma finally got on board in the third. It began when Jaden Koenig’s flyball to right field was misplayed. Nolin followed with a double that scored Koenig. Bueltell then reached on a walk, and both he and Nolin scored on Justin Koenig’s single for a 3-1 lead. Yuma got one more run in fifth when Bueltell helped his own cause with a leadoff double, stole third, then scored on Zwirn’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Ryan Sonnenberg dives back into first base during the district championship game against Holyoke. (Tim Sprouse)

That was all the run support Bueltell needed as he went the distance to get the win, striking out Sedgwick County’s leadoff hitter for the game’s last out. He allowed one run on five hits over seven innings, struck out eight and did not issue a walk. Dunker gave up four runs on four hits, struck out 11 and walked two.
Jaden Koenig had a single and scored a run, Nolin a double, one RBI and one run, Bueltell a double and two runs scored, Justin Koenig one hit and two RBIs, Zwirn one RBI, and Yanez one double.
“We did a great job of making contact,” Nighwonger said. “Limiting the strikeouts to 11 (against Dunker) was a big key.”
The win secured Yuma’s first berth to regional as the top two teams advanced from district.
However, the Indians were not done. They had been swept at Holyoke by a total of three runs earlier this season, and were ready for a little payback when the championship game rolled around.
Yuma struck first when Bueltell drew a walk, then scored on Justin Koenig’s sin-gle in the top of the first. The Indians got on the board again in the third when Jaden Koenig and Nolin hit back-to-back singles, and both scored on on Peña’s double to right-center.
Meanwhile, Peña was cruising on the mound, allowing one run on four hits through four innings.
Yuma pushed its lead to 5-1 in the top of the fifth when Sonnenberg drove in Justin Koenig and Zwirn with a double. Holyoke answered with two in the home half to trail by just two, 5-3.
However, the Indians broke it open in the top of the sixth with six runs off of five hits, including a three-run double by Justin Koenig, for an 11-3 lead.
Holyoke came back with two in the home half, but the rally was snuffed when a nice defensive play gunned down Trevor Dalton at third as he tried to stretch a two-run double into a triple. Yuma came back with two more runs in the seventh as Holyoke went through all four of its quality pitchers – Dalton, Logan Tharp, Deyten Klein and Armando Santos.
Peña was tiring as Holyoke pushed across three more runs in the seventh, but he had a big enough cushion to hang on for the 13-8 win.
Peña allowed eight runs on 13 hits, striking out five and walking two.
Yuma pounded out 15 hits in the victory, a feat that seemed improbable against the quality Holyoke staff. Peña helped his own cause by going 4-for-4 with two doubles and five RBIs, Sonnenberg was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, Irvin Vasquez had one RBI, Justin Koenig 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs, Jaden Koenig 2-for-4 and two runs scored, Nolin 3-for-5 and two runs, Bueltell two runs, Zwirn one hit and two runs, Yanez one hit and one run, and Trace Whitehead scored a run as a courtesy runner for Peña.
“Our kids were focused,” Nighswonger said. “They went into this tournament expecting to win it.”

The Indians ended up winning their first game at regional the next weekend in Pueblo, knocking off Sargent 9-4. However, they then ran into top-ranked Rye and highly-touted prospect Denton Keys in the regional final, losing 11-1 to end the season.
They finished with a 19-4 record, and one win short of reaching the state semifinals.
The 2013 district title was followed by several years of frustrating losses, though the
Irvin Vasquez gets a ride from Layne Andrews after winning the District 7 title in Akron. (Tim Sprouse)
Indians advanced to regional thanks to the introduction of the Rating Percentage Index to determine the 16-team regional field, besides district champions.
Yuma finally won a district championship last season, again beating Holyoke in the title game, and again in Akron. That team also won its first game at regional before losing in the regional final. Last year’s team also was the first to win the LPAA regular-season title.
There have been a lot of strong teams and great players for YHS baseball through the years, but most of that time was spent in the ultra-competitive 3A Patriot League. The Indians first played in 2A in 2011.
It was the 2013 team that finally broke through for a district title and a trip to regional.