Watching his baseball team practice at Joe Rowell Park this week, Dolores manager Rusty Hamilton tried to temper expectations, yet his excitement was palpable.
“We have a lot of returners from last year, and we’ve got some of the kids who were in the (Little League State Tournament) and then went to (the regional tournament) in Wako this summer,” Hamilton said. Some of our players played a lot of summer ball and we expect them to be big contributors this year.”
Among those expected to play a key role for Dolores is junior pitcher/first baseman Dakota Smith, who batted .452, hit two home runs and drove in nine runs during the 12 games for which statistics were available last season. Bigger and stronger this season, Smith will look to start key games on the mound for the Bears this season, while also providing the team with a legitimate power threat at the plate.
Other upperclassmen expected to excel include senior Justin Purkat, who will see time in the infield, outfield and on the pitcher’s mound, as well as junior Neil Farias, who worked hard over the summer to improve his pitching and his hitting.
Senior outfielder Beck Anderson and senior third baseman Tel Hamilton and junior Colton Shaffer, will look to spark the Bears offense. Junior Cameron Chavez, junior Bryce Baumgarten and Anderson will look to provide their team with pitching depth.
Serving as a team leader for Dolores will be senior catcher David Schmittel, whose ability to manage the team’s pitching staff and opposing teams’ running games will be crucial to his team’s success.
“After playing for a while, you feel a lot more confident, and you feel better walking out,” said Schmittel, when asked how he feels entering his final year of high school baseball. “Whether we have a winning season or a losing season, we want to know that we played hard and put it all on the field.”
Senior first baseman Erich Eastman echoed Schmittel’s comments, stating that he hopes that this year’s Dolores team will bring its best effort game in and game out, while maintaining a positive attitude.
Although Rusty Hamilton chose his words carefully when asked about his goals for this season and emphasized that it is difficult to predict results early in the season, he did say that his team is aiming for a postseason berth.
“We set goals earlier in the year, and one of those goals was a state berth,” Hamilton said. “We want to get first or second in our district and make the state tournament.”
The Bears will open their season with a home game against Monticello on March 8 before playing at home against Dove Creek March 13. Results for the March 8 game will not be available until after The Journal’s news deadline.