Paonia pounds Hotchkiss in district tournament title game

PARACHUTE — Two big innings allowed the Paonia High School baseball team to roll to a 15-2 five-inning win over Hotchkiss during the Class 2A District 3/5 tournament title game at Grand Valley High School.

The Eagles (21-0) led the Bulldogs (15-5) by one run after two innings, but Hotchkiss ace Jonathan Gonzalez was pulled in the third inning and Paonia cruised from there.

“We’ve been hitting the ball pretty good, but not as good as I know we can,” Paonia coach Nate Miller said. “But they came out today and just really hit the crap out of the ball.”

The Bulldogs tied it 1-1 in the top of the third, then, with Gonzalez still on the mound in the bottom of the frame, Jaden Miller’s RBI double got things rolling. Kayden Seriani poked a single through the left side to make it 3-1 before Gonzalez was relieved.

The Eagles scored on an error to go up 4-1, then added a score on a fielder’s choice. Dagan Rienks looped a wind-snuffed single to right field to drive in another run and cap scoring in the third.

After Seriani continued his dominant pitching in the top of the fourth, Paonia peppered more hits in the bottom of the frame. Back-to-back doubles from Seriani and Trevor Smith left Paonia with a 15-1 advantage.

All told, the Eagles scored 14 runs across the third and fourth innings to back Seriani, who struck out eight in five innings with only one walk.

Jaden Miller, Smith, Seriani and Slater Podgorny each had three hits, and each drove in at least one run.

Paonia hammered Dolores 28-1 to reach the district championship and Hotchkiss defeated Meeker 5-2.

Hotchkiss, despite losing an automatic bid to the state tournament with Paonia’s victory, will still likely make the 16-team Class 2A state field because of its RPI. Seven district champions receive automatic bids, with the remainder of the field given to teams ranked highest in RPI.

As of late Saturday, the Bulldogs were No. 8 in the classification.

Hotchkiss coach Blake Carlquist said the way his team responds after its most lopsided loss of the season is important.

“I feel like, Game 1 today, we played really well,” Carlquist said. “Great baseball, didn’t make many mistakes, got timely hits and bunts. In Game 2, we forgot — it was almost like we forgot that we’re capable of doing that kind of stuff. It’s one game, but our ability to bounce back is huge now.”


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