A team made up primarily of underclassmen, the Dolores Bears accomplished a lot on the diamond this year.
Seniors Richard Belt, Nic Hassinger and Mike Sparks will graduate. Everyone else is back.
Dolores started the season slow, but it rebounded to win the San Juan Basin League title and earned the No. 1-seed in Saturdays 2A District II tournament.
However, the Bears ran into a buzzsaw at McAndrew Field in Cortez. It was a superb, sunny Saturday morning for baseball. But Rangely Panthers pitcher Kody Denny cast a dark, gloomy cloud over the Dolores batters box.
The senior starter for Rangely threw a no-hitter. The Bears had no answer in a season ending 7-0 loss.
I think we battled there towards the end of the year, played some better baseball. We played well enough to get into districts, Bears coach Jim Everin said. We knew going into districts, we were going to have to play really good baseball. But we came up against a really good pitcher. You cant take anything away from him. You got to hit the ball to score runs, and we didnt do that today.
Dolores (7-11) forced four walks against Denny, but he would no be denied of his third no-hitter, striking out 11 Bears.
My guys had a lot to do with that, staying behind me, Denny said about his shutout win.
Rangely (11-10) advanced to the district championship, where it lost to 2A Western Slope rival Paonia. Each school moved onto regionals.
Its the first one since Ive been in high school, said Denny about the district championship appearance. Its nice to get that.
For the Bears, this season was mostly a learning experience.
Were a young team. Ive only played with these guys about a year, said Dolores junior, Cody Carroll. Today, we could have won, but we didnt. We didnt take our advantages to win the game. All we can say, is just get better for next year.
Rangely tacked on three runs in the top of the first inning to seize control early. Dolores threatened in the bottom of the first with two runners on, but Belt grounded to first for the third out. The Bears didnt do much after that. Denny smashed any hope for Dolores with his fastball.
Half this team hasnt seen anything over 65 miles an hour, Carroll said about opposing pitching. When you get a good pitcher in there, its hard to get on the ball offensively.
Denny appeared fatigued in the sixth inning when he walked the first two Bears hitters in Stetson Hamilton and Carroll. But again, Denny came through, striking out Kellen Gatzke, Kolton Shull and Tyler Weir. That would be the last time Dolores had men on base. Denny retired the Bears top of the order in the bottom of the seventh, all by Ks, to get the win.
The Panthers tacked on runs in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Chad Bolding belted an RBI-double, while Rangely teammates Toby Gasper and Kelton Elam each hit RBI-singles.
Defensively, fundamentally, I thought we played well enough to win a ballgame. said Everin, whos team committed only three errors.
Weir took the loss on the mound, striking out four. But next year appears bright for Dolores baseball.
Its look really good, said Carroll about his teams future. Me and Weir are going to be pitching again. Its OK. Well just hop over this little ledge and get on with next year.
NOTES: Paonia knocked off Ignacio in the other semifinal game, 14-2.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com.