The Bears opened the tournament at home against Ignacio on May 10 and received a stellar pitching performance from junior Cameron Chavez, who pitched five shutout innings and allowed just two hits.
Key to Chavez’s success was his ability to mix well-located fastballs with occasional breaking pitches that kept Ignacio hitters off balance. The Dolores junior struck out three batters and yielded just one walk.
“My pitches were just in the zone,” Chavez said. “My arm felt good after a week of rest. We’ve been practicing better and working together as a team.”
While Chavez was mowing down opposing hitters, the Bears offense struggled early on, but finally broke through in the third inning after a single by Chavez and an RBI double down the left-field line by Tel Hamilton.
An RBI single down the left field line by Dakota Smith later in the inning scored Hamilton from third base and gave Dolores a 2-0 lead, which it would hold until the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Bears narrowly evaded danger in the top of the sixth when Bears’ relief pitcher Justin Purkat walked three Ignacio batters to load the bases with one out. Purkat was subsequently able to field a sharply hit ground ball however, and fire to home to start a 1-2-3 double play that allowed Dolores to escape the inning.
“I was so nervous, but (the grounder) came right to me,” Purkat said. “I just stuck my glove out there, and it was there. It just happened, and things were meant to be, I guess.”
Clearly inspired by their pitcher’s big play, Bears batters came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning and plated seven runs thanks in large part to a two-run single by David Schmittel and a two-run double by Chavez.
Up 9-0 heading into the game’s final inning, Purkat pitched a solid final inning to lock down the victory.
Thanks to the win, Dolores advanced to the second-round of the district tournament and played against top-seeded Hotchkiss High School in Olathe on May 12.
The game began positively for the Bears, who scored four runs in the top of the first inning to take an early lead, but unraveled as Hotchkiss outscored the Bears 15-1 the rest of the way and won, 15-5, in five innings.
Hamilton, Brennan Hite, Neil Farias and Beck Anderson drove in runs for Dolores, and Chavez took the loss on the mound. Although clearly disappointed by their season-ending loss, Bears players agreed that this season was a positive one overall.
“I couldn’t ask for a better ball squad to be playing on,” Purkat said. “To win our last game on our home turf was exciting.”