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Hotchkiss diamond crew playing well

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Photo by Tamie Meck Chase Hiatt slides into home in Hotchkiss' 14-4 season opening win against Roaring Fork. The Bulldogs have a strong schedule ahead of league play that includes 4A Rifle and 3A Coal Ridge.

A walk-off two-run double by Kale Litzelman in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Hotchkiss a 14-4 season-opener win against Roaring Fork last week.

Hotchkiss opened with a 4-0 lead, with Jonathan Gonzalez hitting a one-run double and Chase Hiatt following with a two-run double. Litzelman drove Hiatt in, and with two outs, scored on a single by Colton Deluzio.

In the second inning Roaring Fork scored one run and Hotchkiss took a 7-1 lead on an RBI by Hiatt, a double by Litzelman and an RBI single by Marvin Geureque.

Roaring Fork put two more runs on the board in the third. In the fourth, Gonzalez opened with a double. Hiatt hit a single and stole second before scoring on a single by Guereque. Hotchkiss left three runners on base but led, 9-3, going into the fifth. Hotchkiss scored three more runs on hits by Gonzalez and Geureque. Roaring Fork scored two runs in the top of the sixth to trail, 12-4.

In his first game since 2015, Litzelman, a senior who missed last season due to an injury, was three-for-five for the game and had four RBIs. Hiatt was three-for-four with two RBIs, and Guereque had three hits and three RBIs.

On the mound Litzelman pitched two solid innings, walking two and striking out three. Sophomore Presley Pene struck out six, walked four and allowed four hits and two runs in three innings. Mario Espinoza allowed one hit and one run in the sixth.

"It was a very good team effort," and a good start to the season, said head coach Blake Carlquist. Batters also knocked in 10 RBIs. "Lots of good hits," said Carlquist.

On Wednesday Hotchkiss lost to 4A Rifle, 11-9. Hiatt had nine putouts for the game, and on the mound threw four Ks and walked five. Gonzalez struck out two and walked three, and Eli Kirk struck out five.

Last season the Bulldogs finished second in District 2 to Paonia. They hope to return to the playoffs after being eliminated from the state championship bracket on a 5-3 quarterfinal loss to Limon. They finished the season with an 18-3 record. The Dogs graduated five seniors, including all-state first-team pitcher Cesar Gonzalez.

Carlquist said this year's team has what it takes to get back into the state bracket. "We have enough talent to fill the holes that were left from our seniors," said Carlquist.

Hotchkiss has a tough early schedule this season and will face 4A and 3A teams before heading into league play on April 1. "That's a good thing," said Carlquist. In the 2A Western Slope (Districts 2 and 3), CHSAA ranks Hotchkiss at No. 7 in the state coming into the season. Another WSL team in the top 10 is Paonia, which CHSAA ranks at No. 1. Meeker also will be tough, said Carlquist.

Hotchkiss will complete the regular season on May 4 at Sargent (Monte Vista). Not sure how that happened, said Carlquist. I think we were just both looking for another game."

Hotchkiss hosted Olathe Tuesday. It welcomes 2A Dayspring Christian Academy (Greeley) at 4 p.m. Friday, March 24, and on Monday, March 27, it travels to 3A Delta (2-2). The Panthers were 19-5 last season and lost only two seniors. "They're going to be solid," said Carlquist.

Next Tuesday Hotchkiss travels to 3A Coal Ridge (New Castle).

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