After losing both games of a conference double-header against Paonia in March, Hotchkiss proved that it is a contender in the 2A Western Slope League by splitting its second double-header Saturday and outscoring Paonia 12-6 for the series.
Paonia squeaked by with a 3-2 win in game one.
"That was a good game," said Hotchkiss pitcher Devan Rupe, who opened the series with six strikeouts and allowed five hits in seven innings. "It felt like a playoff game to us."
"I think they didn't expect a lot out of us before we came in, because the first two wins they kind of just walked all over us," said Rupe, referring to the 9-0, 12-6 losses to Paonia in March.
Playing Paonia is different than playing other teams, said Rupe. "It's kind of a mindset." In its first series, Hotchkiss didn't play up to its potential. "We try to treat it like another game, but we have a lot of pressure on us."
Hotchkiss is a comparatively young team with a lot of talent. They opened the season with a loss to 3A Rifle, then swept a 3A-4A tournament at Glenwood Springs, including a win over Middle Park, which is now seventh in state 3A standings. Their only losses since Glenwood have been to Paonia.
With players out for spring break, both teams went to the bench to fill their starting lineup. Neither team scored in the first five innings. Paonia senior pitcher Taylor Katzer struck out the first three at bats and threw seven Ks in the first five innings. Rupe didn't allow a hit until the fourth.
But in the swing of a bat, the game changed. In the bottom of the sixth, Brayden Wilson found the right pitch off of Katzer, who was nearing 80 throws, and on the team's third hit of the day, knocked a home run to center field, scoring Russ Evans from first.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Tyler Jackson singled for Paonia. With two outs, Cesar Gonzalez walked the leadoff batter Katzer, and Jorge Quinonez singled to load the bases. The game's outcome fell squarely on Kendall, who recalled that Rupe's first pitch was a curve ball. "I swung and I barely hit it so I thought I was going to get another curve ball," said Kendall. "But then he gave me a fast ball."
Kendall, one of the top hitters in the state, knocked the ball into the fence just left of centerfield. Jackson and Katzer ran across home, and Quinonez kicked up dust on his way in, but was ruled safe on a slide.
"I thought it was gone," said Kendall, who stopped on second base, "but it didn't leave the park, I guess."
Kendall was 2 for 4 with two doubles, and was walked in his other two at-bats. "You know it's coming," said Kendall of his four walks for the series. "It feels like a compliment, but you also just really want to hit."
The only other hits off of Rupe were Quinonez's base hit, and singles by Kyle Manuppella and Jacob Leon.
"He's an animal," said Rupe of Kendall's batting skills. "Hitting .625. I try to set him up differently than others."
Kendall said Katzer, who had four hits and two runs in seven innings, earned the win. "He kept them close, he did really good," said Kendall.
In game two, Gonzalez opened the second inning with a triple, Kaleb Bayles singled, and Gonzalez scored on a balk.
Mitch McCurdy got to first on an unintentional walk.
With two outs, Quinonez chose loading the bases over an RBI, and walked Rupe. Hank Edwards, who hadn't had a hit all day, knocked in two runs on a single to right field. Evans followed with an RBI single and Hotchkiss took a 4-0 lead.
Paonia scored in the third on an RBI double by Kendall, who was 2 for 4 with two RBIs. In the fourth, Jackson, who was also 2 for 4, scored from third on an error, and Katzer scored on an RBI single by Kendall. Paonia trailed 4-3.
Hotchkiss took advantage of errors to score two more runs in the fourth, then picked up four more runs, including a two-run double by Gonzalez in the fifth for a 10-3 win. It was the first conference loss for Paonia since 2010.
In game two, Gonzalez batted 3 for 4 with two RBIs. On the mound he threw eight Ks and allowed six hits in seven innings.
Paonia (9-5 overall, 7-1 2A Western Slope League) remains in first place in league standings, with Hotchkiss trailing by two games. Rangely (4-9, 3-5) is third, and Meeker (1-7, 1-7) is in fourth.
Paonia will travel to Rangely (4-9, 3-5) Saturday. "We definitely don't want to overlook them," said Kendall. "They've got a lot of dangerous players if we give them the right pitches," he said, referring to game one of a double-header against the Panthers.
Paonia had a 13-run lead when Rangely scored 10 runs in a single inning.
Hotchkiss hosts a non-conference game against Olathe today at 4 p.m., then travels to Meeker (1-7, 1-7) Saturday.
As for the two North Fork teams, "We'll see Paonia again at districts," said Rupe.blog comments powered by Disqus