You might say that Josie Hiatt is outstanding in her field.
Right field, mainly.
Hiatt, of Hotchkiss, is among a handful of female players in the state competing in summer youth baseball programs. The 13-year-old is a starting player for the Hotchkiss Bulldogs 13-15 team headed for this week's state tournament in Burlington. Under head coach Brian Matus, the Bulldogs posted a 16-1-1 regular season and claimed the Tri-County 13-15 division title to advance to state.
"I've always been the only girl on the (baseball) team," said Hiatt, the team's starting right fielder. Over the years she's only seen a handful of other girls on the field, and recalled seeing only one or two this season.
"She really stands out. She plays very good baseball," said Matus, who has coached Hotchkiss youth league teams for the last few years and watched Hiatt play since 2010. "She holds her own."
This season she is one of the top five batters on the team, said Matus.
Last summer, Matus coached his team to second place at state. Only one of this year's players, Alex Aguilera, played for Matus last season. This is his first year to coach the remaining 13 players, including Hiatt. "The kids change every year," said Matus, "which means you don't get a chance to be with them for too many years."
All but two of his 14 players are from Hotchkiss. Dominick Beck and Corbin Beck are from Paonia. The Bulldogs are among at least three local teams competing in state tournaments this month.
Despite being young (the youngest player is 12), the team has both experience and the desire to win, said Matus. "This team plays well together, they all work real hard. Hotchkiss and the valley put out some good ball players," said Matus.
Hiatt, the daughter of Ty and Dana Hiatt, is also a triplet, and plays on the same team as her brother, Chase. Their sister, Shelby, doesn't play baseball, said Josie, but she comes out to support her siblings. "We're all into baseball," said Hiatt. "It's a family thing."
Like most baseball players, Hiatt got her start playing T-ball at age 6. She said she played softball in 2009, but wanted something more competitive. She joined her first summer league baseball team in 2010 and has made the Hotchkiss all-star team every year since then, playing both infield and outfield positions, including pitcher and second base. "I like playing outfield," said Hiatt, who was filling in at short stop and second base during last week's practice.
This won't be Hiatt's first state tournament. In 2011 she was on the 60-foot majors all-star team that claimed the 11-12 state title, qualifying them for a trip to the regional tournament in Baxter, Minn. Bulldog teammates Colton Deluzio, Raul Mendoza, Eli Kirk, Adain Wilmot and Mario Espinoza, along with Chase Hiatt, were also members of the 2011 state champion team. Unfortunately, Josie Hiatt had to miss the tournament due to other commitments.
Hiatt wants to play high school baseball, but knows that high school competition is much tougher than the summer leagues she's used to playing in. But she's determined to stick with the sport. Hiatt will enter eighth grade this fall, and hopes to be able to play another two or three seasons before switching to softball. She will likely have to commute to Delta, since neither of the North Fork high schools currently fields a softball team. Hiatt also plays volleyball and competes in track as a sprinter, relay team member and jumper. She's looking forward to competing in both sports in high school.
The Bulldogs had the opportunity to compete in two tournaments this week, including the Jason Lopez Memorial in Montrose and the Tri-County tournament at Field of Dreams in Orchard City. That tournament closes today. Instead, they opted to spend the time focusing on practicing and fundraising for their state trip.
The winners of this week's state tournament, which runs July 19-22, will advance to the Midwest Plains regional tournament in Boonville, Mo., in early August. Hiatt said she likes this team's chances of doing well at the state level. "We only lost one this summer, so I think we're pretty good," said Hiatt.blog comments powered by Disqus