Over the course of its regular season, the Dolores High School baseball team established itself as one of the most close-knit and well-balanced groups in the state while amassing a 12-5 record overall and a 4-1 record in the Class 2A 3/5 League.
Now, thanks to its status as Class 2A 3/5 league champions, the Bears will enter the Class 2A 3/5 District Tournament as the tournament’s top overall seed. Dolores, which received a first-round bye, will open the tournament against fourth-seeded Rangely High School on Saturday.
“We want to keep the mindset that we had the whole year,” coach Rusty Hamilton explained. “We want to take things one game at a time and we feel like we should come out of there with two wins.”
To win its opening-round game against Rangely and advance to a district championship matchup against either Paonia High or Hotchkiss High later on Saturday, Dolores will lean on a pitching staff that has been stellar this season.
Among the hurlers likely to make an impact for the Bears are senior Neil Farias, who went 2-0 this season with a 6.46 ERA and struck out 39 batters. Also figuring to play a prominent role on the mound will be senior Cameron Chavez, who went 2-1 with a 4.69 ERA and struck out 42 batters.
Several other pitchers, including senior Dakota Smith, JJ Bruner and Kevin Purkat, could also pitch in relief. Regardless of which of his pitchers is on the mound, however, Hamilton is confident in his team’s ability to record outs.
“The thing that we have going for us is depth with our pitching staff,” Hamilton said. “We have a lot of guys who can throw the ball and that’s something that will help us as we move through (the district tournament).
While pitching will be key to the Bears’ hopes of winning a district championship, maintaining the type of solid hitting that they enjoyed throughout the season will also be crucial to the team’s success.
Among Dolores’ most prolific hitters this season was Smith, who batted .604, smashed four home runs, smacked 12 doubles and drove in a team-best 37 runs. Also figuring to play a significant role at the plate will be Farias, who batted .433 with three home runs and 23 RBIs.
“We are going to need the top of our order to get on base,” Hamilton said. “Then we need the middle of our lineup and the bottom of our lineup to clean up the bases for us.”
When asked what makes this year’s Dolores team special, Hamilton immediately mentioned strong chemistry and noted that most of the team’s players have been competing together since grade school.
“(Our players) are a group of friends,” Hamilton said. “They have played a lot of baseball together over the years throughout Little League and up into high school. There’s just not a lot of getting mad at each other and we just show up to play baseball.”
In the event that Dolores finishes first in its district tournament, it will automatically clinch a spot at regionals. Even if the Bears falter, however, there is still a chance that the team could qualify for regionals based on RPI rankings.
“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year,” Hamilton said. “If we do that, I like our chances.”