Met at the plate by fellow senior Wade Dunbar-Berger (22), Ignacio's Devante Montoya celebrates scoring a second inning run (as did Dunbar-Berger, on the same play) during IHS' win over Rye in the CHSAA Class 2A State Tournament's opening Round-of-32 Saturday morning, May 18, in Limon. The Bobcats beat the Thunderbolts 5-4, and would next face event-hosting LHS.
Cheering on Ignacio senior Gracelynn Thompson (2) after her Senior/Parent Appreciation Day introduction to fans inside IHS Gymnasium Saturday, Feb. 10, prior to varsity action this season against Centauri, head coach Trae Seibel has been named the successor to longtime IHS Boys' Basketball boss Chris Valdez. Seibel was the point guard on Valdez's high-scoring 2009-10 squad which not only qualified for the State Championships – held that season at CSU-Pueblo – but placed second.
Seen coaching Ignacio's girls' varsity during the 2018 CHSAA Class 2A State Championships in Loveland, Colo., Trae Seibel – at the Lady Bobcats' helm the past two seasons – has been named the successor to longtime IHS Boys' Basketball head coach Chris Valdez. Seibel was the point guard on Valdez's high-scoring 2009-10 squad which not only qualified for the State Championships – held that season at CSU-Pueblo – but placed second.
Ignacio freshman William Mendoza-Lechuga makes sure the ball isn't being relayed in his direction while scoring a second inning run Saturday morning, May 18, in Limon against Rye. The Bobcats defeated the Thunderbolts 5-4 in the CHSAA Class 2A State Tournament's opening Round-of-32, and advanced to face event-hosting LHS.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
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No. 1 Badgers bring down Bobcats

Ignacio’s season ends in Limon, 10-1 

Held to just two true base hits, the Ignacio Bobcats were unable to scratch out more than one run Saturday afternoon, May 18, in a nine-run, season ending loss to Eastern Plains leviathan Limon. 

“Baseball’s like life, and life’s like baseball; the ball bounces your way sometimes and doesn’t go your way other days, but you’ve got to keep fighting,” said IHS head coach Isiah Valdez. “That’s what these guys did all year; they gave me everything.” 

“We went toe-to-toe with the best team in the state for the better part of a ball game. They fought, gave me everything they had and I let them know that, most of all, I love ’em, you know?” 

“They weren’t intimidated by us being No. 1 and undefeated; they came out and battled,” said Badger boss Rocky Rockwell, “and made us earn, really, everything we had throughout the game.” 

Following a 33-minute lightning/rain delay, senior Phillip Quintana led off the visitors’ sixth inning at Bob Smith Memorial Baseball Park with a single, then moved up to second via a one-out walk to sophomore Ambrose Valdez. The pair gained another bag when LHS pitcher Jordan Rockwell tagged senior Marcus Maez, and with bases loaded, sophomore Gabe Archuleta grounded out to first baseman Mason Jaques, but not fast enough to give Jaques time to gun Quintana at the plate. 

Rockwell, however, then struck out William Mendoza-Lechuga to kill off the developing rally, and the Badgers – seeded No. 1 in the 2024 CHSAA Class 2A State Tournament’s opening Round-of-32, and still hyped over their 20-0 destruction of 32-seed Sanford a couple hours earlier – responded with four game-breaking runs in the bottom of the inning. 

After plunking leadoff man Aiden Kollath, IHS senior Devante Montoya (L; 5.1 IP, 4 H, 9 R, 6 BB, HB, 6 K) struck out Nathaniel Coonts looking, but then threw two wild pitches during Jaques’ at-bat, putting Kollath on third. Jaques, unsurprisingly, walked and then stole second with Logan Haflich up. Haflich would also draw a walk, and after holding Limon to just one run through three innings and three through four, Montoya’s day on the mound was done. 

“Some games aren’t going to go our way and we’ve just got to work through it,” said Limon senior Keon Bandy. “That’s what Rocky’s taught us all year…the only thing we can change is our ‘controllables’ and hope to come out on top.” 

“Devante pitched a great game,” Valdez declared, also indirectly tipping his cap to Montoya earning a save in 16-seed IHS’ 5-4 win over No. 17 Rye (11-12 overall) that morning. “We had guys on here and there, but just didn’t get that ‘one’ hit.” 

Valdez called Stoney White Thunder over from third base, but one of the sophomore lefty’s first deliveries to Trey Smith was wild and allowed Kollath to score, increasing LHS’ lead to 7-1. Smith (1-3, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI) then roped a single down the right-field line, plating Jaques and Haflich, and hustled to second base via Bobcat first baseman Rylan Maez’s errant relay throw – attempting to retire Haflich – home. 

Having slammed the door on SHS with a two-run homer, Rockwell did, more or less, likewise to Ignacio with a ground-rule double over the fence in left-center scoring Smith. White Thunder (0.2 IP, 2 H, R, 2 K) recovered to strike out the dangerous Bandy (2-3, BB, 3 R, RBI) – catcher Quintana scooped up a dropped third strike and threw to Rylan Maez for the putout – and then froze cleanup hitter Cale Bennett (1-3, 2B, SAC-FLY, 2 RBI), but irreparable damage had been done. 

Rockwell (3 IP, 2 H, ER, 3 BB, HB, 8 K) then worked swiftly in IHS’ seventh and struck out three of the four batters he saw – including Montoya (0-3, BB, 3 K) for the second out and, after a walk to White Thunder (0-2, 2 BB, K), Quintana (1-4, R, 2 K) for the finalizing third. 

“It didn’t go our way,” Marcus Maez said, “but it is what it is.” 

“It means a lot,” Montoya said, of the importance of notching at least one win at the same site the team’s 2023 season had ended. “We have a lot of younger kids, so the program’s going to keep going; I think we’re going to do good in the future.” 

Having thrown just 34 pitches in earning the three-inning win against Sanford (12-8 overall), Bandy still had plenty of fuel to burn and earned the win against Ignacio (18-7). He worked four hitless innings, walked three ’Cats and beaned one, and struck out seven. The only ‘knock’ against him was a two-out Quintana drive to dead center in the third inning, but while White Thunder advanced from first to third – with the Bobcats trailing by only a run – on the play Quintana was ruled out for missing the bag as he rounded first, negating the apparent double. 

“Obviously Keon was throwing really good…and as a team we hit well, one through nine. Mason had three hits the first game, and when those bottom guys are sparking then it makes us top guys more open to hitting,” said Jordan Rockwell (1-3, BB, R, RBI), a senior. “So, I thought we played well, offensively and defensively.” 

“Hats off to Limon. They’ve got two incredible arms, and they swing the bats; they’re unbelievable and well-coached,” Valdez said. “Best in the state, hands-down, and I think they’re probably going to go win it all.” 



The Badgers next faced 8-seed Buena Vista on the 24th at the Runyon Complex in Pueblo, Colo. and downed the Demons 17-7 in six innings before then being upset 5-1 in the subsequent contest by No. 12 Lyons. Fighting back in the next afternoon’s consolation-bracket action, Limon (presently 26-1 overall) eliminated 3-seed Las Animas in eight innings, 2 to 1, and will next see action at 10 a.m. Friday, May 31, versus BVHS (19-7) – which stayed alive on the 25th with a 6-5 win over No. 13 Swink, then a 7-4 win over 11-seed Greeley Dayspring Christian. 

“This is the first year we’re going to have double-elimination in the final eight. We’ve never had that before,” Rocky Rockwell said, speaking for Class 2A as a whole, “and a lot of coaches were lobbying for that; they wanted to see what teams have a complete pitching staff – and I feel like we do.” 

“During one point in the season, 60 percent of our outs were strikeouts,” he noted (Bandy and Rockwell combined for 15 Ks, or 71 percent of the outs against IHS). “Our pitchers, most of them are seniors – they’ve had the ball in their hands year after year – so they’re confident. I don’t know if they’ll get 60 percent next week, but if they do I like our chances.” 

“I’m excited, but our job’s not finished,” said Bandy. 

The State Championship is presently set for Saturday, June 1, at CSU-Pueblo’s Rawlings Field. 



Against Rye, the Bobcats built up a 5-1 lead through two innings and fortunately held on the rest of the way behind the pitching of Quintana (W; 6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, HB, 6 K) and Montoya (0.2 IP, K). Montoya ended the game by getting RHS senior Brandon Benz to whiff on a vicious 1-2 curveball, stranding the tying run at third base. 

Benz had belted a fourth-inning solo homer off Quintana and finished 1-4 with a run and one RBI. Senior Will Hamler went 2-4 as every batter but two – including senior pitcher Aydin Swald (L; 6 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, BB, 2 HB, 10 K), 0-4 with two strikeouts – logged at least one hit. 

Hit by a pitch his first time up, Montoya went 1-2 with a double, two runs and one batted in. White Thunder was 1-2 with a walk, run and two RBI, and Ambrose Valdez was 1-3 with a 2-RBI double. Senior designated hitter Wade Dunbar-Berger was 2-2 with a double and a run, and Mendoza-Lechuga went 1-3 with a run. 

“It’s pretty great that we got a ‘W’ out here,” said Ambrose Valdez. “Philly was outstanding…got us through. Our bats started off a little slow, then I came up…and we just caught fire from there.” 

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