The team’s opportunity to compete in Texas came as a result of three stellar performances during the senior state tournament, which took place July 12-15 at McAndrew Field in Cortez. The tournament is was open to 15- to 16-year-olds.
After opening the tournament with a 10-0 victory over Arapahoe on Wednesday, Southwest Colorado advanced to take on Sherrelwood on Thursday with a spot in the state finals on the line.
Starting the game with Dolores High School’s Dakota Smith on the mound, Southwest Colorado led 1-0 at the end of the first inning thanks to Smith’s double to the wall in left field, which scored Caleb Compton from first base.
Southwest Colorado extended its lead to 7-0 in the top of the third inning after a two-run single by Cole Herrmann and several long at-bats, which flustered Sherrelwood and resulted in three wild pitches in the inning.
“Once you get down in the count, you just have to grind at bats and keep fouling off pitches,” Compton said. “Hopefully, the pitcher will eventually make a mistake, and that’s what happened several times today.”
Also allowing Southwest Colorado to build on its lead was the pitching of Smith, whose unorthodox pitching motion and mix of a fastball, curveball and change-up kept Sherrelwood batters off balance.
“I felt really good,” Smith said. All of my pitches were working.”
Thanks to a four-run fourth inning highlighted by an RBI triple by Smith that one-hopped the left-field wall and a two-run fifth inning highlighted by a Smith double to center field, Southwest Colorado entered the final frame leading 13-0.
Despite a difficult start to the final frame, Southwest Colorado relief pitcher Neil Farias settled in nicely and shut down Sherrelwood to preserve the victory.
Following up its semifinals victory, Southwest Colorado faced off against Arapahoe in the finals on Saturday and won 8-0.
Compton again started the game on the mound for the Panthers and pitched into the sixth inning before being relieved by Smith, who closed out the game. Isiah Pena and Smith led the team in hitting with two RBIs each, and Compton went 4-5 at the plate and scored three runs.
“It was an awesome game and an awesome tournament,” said Southwest Colorado manager Tim Passell. “We moved runners, we hit, and our pitching was on.”
Thanks to its state championship victory, Southwest Colorado will next play in the Little League Regional Tournament, which will begin in Texas on July 22. Southwest Colorado will open the tournament against the state champions from Louisiana and according to Passell, the team will look to stay competitive and pick up a victory.
“We’re going to practice Monday and Tuesday, and we’ll start traveling to Texas on Wednesday,” Passell said. “We have seven guys who weren’t on last year’s team, but I think the guys are ready, and I expect us to be competitive.”