Seniors lead Soper’s Bulldogs

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 10:26 PM

Baseball season has begun, and Ken Soper will lead the Dove Creek Bulldogs baseball team for his 46th season.

The 2011 squad has 12 players, and they look to be anchored by seniors Austin Norris (pitcher/shortstop/catcher/third base), Jagger Watkins (second base) and Jeff Sparks (outfield), sophomore pitcher and shortstop Dalton Randolph, and junior Dalton Davis (catcher/pitcher).

The Bulldogs came out to play for the first time this season March 5 in a scrimmage at Piedra Vista High School in baseball community Farmington, N.M. There were a lot of mistakes made, but it was a good learning experience to begin the season.

“Our pitcher didn’t have the experience pitching off a mound. It’s quite a bit of a difference off a mound than level pitching,” Soper said. “We didn’t hit good. We didn’t have hitting practice either. But a lot of kids got some experience. It was definitely helpful to us.”

Dove Creek finished just 4-17 last year, and rival Dolores won the San Juan Basin League championship. The Bulldogs feel they are ready to compete in the SJBL this season. But Nucla and Ignacio are also gunning for Dolores.

“We want to come out with a few more wins than we did last year,” Norris said. “We have a lot of kids who want to play baseball and are real good at it. We’re going to try and come out and beat a few teams this year that we didn’t beat last year.”

One team Dove Creek didn’t beat was Dolores.

“I’ve always wanted to beat Dolores since I was a freshman,” Watkins said. “That’s been one of our goals. It’s a big rivalry, and it always has been.”

The Bulldogs open the season on the road against the Aztec (N.M.) High School junior varsity on Tuesday, March 15, at 3 p.m. Later in the week, Dove Creek will be at a three-day tournament hosted by Piedra Vista that goes Thursday through Saturday, March 15-17.

“We have tough road games before league. It’s just going to prepare us more for all our actual league games,” Watkins said about playing in New Mexico.

Playing a touch nonconference schedule is important to team success in the SJBL season, Soper said.

“It’s always good to get off to a good start and get a good confidence and momentum build up,” he said. “We’ll have tough preseason games.”

The nonconference portion of the schedule concludes with Utah rivals Monticello on March 22 and at Grand County High School in Moab to face the JV team on March 29.

“Because of how close they are to us, it’s always kind of a rivalry,” Soper said about the Utah schools.

League play begins with Ignacio on Tuesday, April 12.

Reach Bobby Abplanalp at