Last Saturday the Paonia Eagles were looking forward to a home doubleheader against Dayspring Christian Academy, a Greeley school ranked sixth in early-season state 2A rankings. Dayspring was scheduled to come to Delta County Friday for a game against No. 7 Hotchkiss, then face No. 1 Paonia Saturday. But with a blizzard on the Front Range and chain laws in effect Friday morning, Dayspring opted to stay home.
Rather than take the Saturday off or hold a standard practice, head coach Nate Miller split his 26 players into two teams, had one team put on the stripes uniform and the other the solid red uniform, and held a scrimmage.
Miller said that when he was in college his school frequently played intra-squad games. He would have done this in years past, but until this season, there weren't enough players to fill two line-ups.
"This gets everybody on the field," said Miller. Pitchers threw at least an inning, and younger players needing more experience got to play both with and against varsity and all-state players.
Despite all the benefits, "I'd have rather played a doubleheader against Dayspring," said Miller.
With seven freshmen and four sophomores on the team, the game also gave coaches a look at what some of the younger players are capable of. "Very impressed with my youngsters," said Miller. "We're going to have a good team for a few years now."
"It's great for morale, great for the team," added Miller. Everyone had fun, and everyone got along. "Since we have enough kids we're going to do plenty more of this."
Team statistician Cindy Swartzendruber used the opportunity to teach managers and players how to record stats.
Oh yes, the Stripes (Grey Neal, David Lozano, Anders Schopp, Jaden Miller, Dagan Rienks, Austyn Norris, Kelby Carver, Jai Petmezas, Colby Simpson, Alex Sanchez, Klint Putman and Garrett Beck) defeated the Reds (Slater Podgorny, Trevor Smith, Derek Holt, Anthony Felice, Kaden Seriani, Alex Lozano, Shane Odom, Clay Campbell, Sam Erickson, Carlos Lozano, Justin Peterson, Soul Connolly and Cody Gilliland), 10-6.
The game also drew a good crowd. "We had more people show up today than we do for some games. It's crazy," said Miller.
Miller said he's working with Dayspring to reschedule the doubleheader for later in the season.
This Saturday Paonia opens conference play against Dolores (2-3) at noon and Ignacio (1-3) at 3 p.m., in Paonia.