Senior Derek Heinigher pitches against Resurrection Christian in the state 2A semifinals. Paonia placed fourth after falling to Resurrection, 6-0.
After advancing to the regional finals in 2A state baseball on a hard-fought win over Sargent, then upsetting No. 2 Las Animas to win the regional tournament, the seventh-seed Eagles ended their run for the state title last Friday with a 6-0 loss to No. 3 Resurrection Christian (Loveland).
The two teams had met exactly two years earlier, and that game had a similar outcome.
It's not easy getting past those private schools.
The Eagles defense made three costly errors, while the confident Cougars played a nearly flawless game. After averaging more than 10 hits per game, Paonia managed only three off of sophomore pitcher Jake Lohr, including a double by Tyler Kendall in the first inning.
The Cougars opened with two runs in the first. An infield error allowed a base hit for Cougar Kenny Lowry, and Landon Long walked Josh Mondt. With two outs, Chance Richardson brought two runners home on a bunt.
The Cougars methodically added to the lead, scoring two, two-out runs in the bottom of the third and adding one run in the fifth and in the sixth. With two outs, RC scored their final run, an RBI single, in the bottom of the sixth.
Eagle Derek Heiniger closed with two Ks in three innings.
On the opposite side of the bracket, No. 5 Byers (14-4) upset defending state champions and No. 1-seeded Rye to advance to the championship game, which was delayed until Monday by Saturday's heavy rains.
Under first-year head coach Drew Potter, the Eagles posted a 17-6-1 record, were undefeated in Western Slope League play and won the district and regional championships. Senior KC Christian led the team in hitting with a .488 average for the season, and Kendall, a junior, hit for five homeruns and 36 RBIs for an average of .479. The Eagles scored 233 runs in 817 plate appearances and had a team batting average of .380.
Senior pitchers Long and Heiniger were both credited with eight wins in 14 appearances, with Heiniger throwing 75 Ks in 902 pitches and Long 74 Ks in 891 pitches.
Of the three Western Slope teams remaining in the playoffs, all were eliminated over the weekend. In the Class 3A double-elimination tournament, No. 5 Olathe lost 25-6 to Holy Family on Friday, then lost by three Saturday to No. 7 Lamar. In 4A, seventh-seed Montrose lost on Friday to Broomfield, and was eliminated after an 8-1 loss to D'Evelyn.