Traveling to face Hotchkiss High School and Paonia High School on March 30, the Dolores High School baseball team knew that it would be in for a stiff challenge given that both its opponents have historically been among the best in Class 2A.
Far from being intimated, however, this year’s senior-laden Bears team was excited, and over the course of two contests that included an 8-4 victory over Hotchkiss and a 3-1 loss to Paonia, Dolores showed that it will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Among highlights from the Bears’ win over Hotchkiss was a stellar pitching performance by senior Cameron Chavez, who allowed six hits and four earned runs over seven innings and struck out three Hotchkiss batters.
Chavez was especially sharp early on as the junior allowed just one run over the first four innings. Dolores scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie and added two more runs in the top of the sixth inning to pull ahead 8-3 before Chavez closed the door in the seventh inning to preserve his team’s victory.
“Cameron pitched an excellent game,” Dolores manager Rusty Hamilton said. “He had good action on all of his pitches. Since he has come into the program, he has shown a cool head on the mound.”
Dolores was led at the plate by senior Dakota Smith, who drilled a double and a home run and had a game-best three RBIs. Dolores also received an RBI hit from sophomore JJ Bruner, and senior Colton Shaffer also drove in a run.
“(Smith’s) home run, the umps and the fans were talking about it, and it’s the longest (home run) that they had ever seen hit at the park,” Hamilton said. “Someone had a range finder, and they estimated it at 500 (feet).
Among the highlights from the Bears’ loss to Paonia were solid pitching performances by senior Neil Farias, who allowed two earned runs over 31/3 innings pitched, and senior Dakota Smith, who shut Paonia out for 22/3 innings.
While the Bears bats were quieted for most of the afternoon by Paonia starting pitchers Soul Connolly and Grey Neal, the Bears did receive hits from sophomore Isiah Knox, senior Brennan Hite, Farias and Smith.
Dolores scored its lone run on an RBI double by Knox in the top of the fourth inning. Knox’s hit put the Bears ahead 1-0, but three runs from Paonia in the bottom of the fourth inning put the Bears behind for good.
“That was the lowest-scoring game I’ve ever had against Paonia since I’ve been coaching,” Hamilton said. “We should have beat them. Coming into the second game of a doubleheader, we were just a little flat, and we didn’t have our bats working like we did against Hotchkiss.”
With its record now at 4-3 overall, Dolores will prepare for a road matchup against Nucla High School on April 2.
“Right now, we really have one mindset, and that’s to get to the state tournament,” Smith explained. “I hate looking that far ahead, but we feel like we have a chance against any team that we see this year. Nucla always has a good program, but I feel like we can compete and we have a good chance of winning that game.”