Depending upon which poll you follow, the state's No. 1 and No. 2 2A baseball teams met at Volunteer Park last Tuesday evening in Paonia.
In the first of two regular season matchups between rivals that have played baseball for over a hundred years, Paonia showed that it can execute in all three phases of the game and beat the Bulldogs 3-0.
The Eagles (12-0) remained No. 1 while the Bulldogs (12-1) lost for the first time this year.
KJ Seriani pitched seven innings for Paonia and shut out the Bulldogs. He yielded five hits, walked none and struck out four Hotchkiss batters.
"KJ's been getting better all year. Lights out, as far as I can tell," said Eagles catcher Jaden Miller. "His fastball has movement, it's hard, he's throwing it 90 miles an hour as a sophomore. That's pretty good."
Miller represented Paonia well at the plate and on the base paths. He crushed a pitch from Hotchkiss starter Cesar Gonzalez and led off the Eagles' fourth with a double.
"Just thinking fastball, that's what I'm looking for," Miller said. "I was thinking fastball and that's what he threw me. So I hit it."
Miller took third on Trevor Smith's groundout, then came in to score the game's first run when Anders Schopp lined a grounder up the middle that was too hot for the Hotchkiss defense to handle.
"I was going to be as aggressive as possible," Miller said. "I know I'm not the fastest on the team, but I just try to read what I can."
Gonzalez was the hard luck loser in a crisply played pitcher's dual. The Hotchkiss senior went six innings and yielded five hits and three runs, but only one of those runs was earned.
Gonzalez walked two and struck out three Eagles.
The Eagles, featuring the top home run hitter (Seriani) and RBI man (Smith) in the state, had to adjust to facing a strong pitcher who allows very few chances.
"We just got to be focused and know we have a good short game, and do whatever we can," Miller said. "Every run matters. Every time we get on base, it matters where we are."
Paonia added insurance in the sixth when Miller scored on an error, then Smith scored after the Eagles executed back-to-back sacrifice bunts by Dagan Rienks and Schopp.
The Eagles showed they can play defense, too. After Eli Kirk singled in the top of the first for the Bulldogs, shortstop Colby Simpson and second baseman Slater Podgorny ended the threat by turning a nifty 6-4-3 double play.
Kirk singled again to threaten in the Hotchkiss seventh, but Simpson ended the game with a sparkling unassisted double play.
Pitching, hitting, defense. The Eagles showed it all in the win, but they aren't going to be overconfident.
"We're definitely taking it game by game. We haven't even mentioned state yet," Miller said. "All we got to do is think about who we got next."
The No. 1 Eagles kept their momentum rolling and beat Rangely in a doubleheader on the road last Saturday.
Rangely's team has yet to win a game this year and Paonia beat them 24-1 and 19-1 in the twinbill.
Trevor Smith led the way in game one, going 4-for-4 from the plate with four RBIs and scoring five times.
Anders Schopp, Dagan Rienks and Colby Simpson combined to pitch a six-hitter on the home team's field.
The Eagles scored 10 runs in the first inning of game two to put the game immediately out of reach.
Jaden Miller allowed one hit, one run and struck out 12 batters in the win for Paonia.