The chance for an all-North Fork state baseball championship game came to a close Saturday when the top-seeded Peyton Panthers scored a seventh-inning run to defeat fourth-seeded Hotchkiss semifinals, 4-3.
"It was a good baseball game," said head coach Blake Carlquist. "For the most part I thought we played well today. We were excited, we were confident. We knew we had the capability of playing well."
Seniors Chase Hiatt was 2 for 3 with a triple and an RBI, Jonathan Gonzalez was 2 for 3, and Marvin Guereque was 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI.
In the sixth the Bulldogs took a 3-2 lead, with Jamison Yanish scoring on a hit by Josie Hiatt. With two outs, Devin Curtis scored on a double by Guereque.
Jonathan Gonzalez opened the top of the seventh inning with a single and reached second on an error. Peyton brought in relief pitcher Rupert Shaw, who walked Yanish, and put Chase Hiatt on first after hitting him with a pitch. Shaw finished the inning, striking out Jesus Macias and Devin Curtis, leaving three runners on base.
"We had opportunities to score a few more runs and (Peyton) stepped up and threw some big outs," said Carlquist. "Every time we would step up and do something great, the very next inning they would just counter back. It was just one of those back and forths the whole game. The team that got to hit last ended up winning."
Gonzalez had two errors and allowed 10 hits and two earned runs in six innings. With temperatures soaring into the mid 90s, Gonzalez stepped off the mound. The heat was getting to him, said Carlquist. "He decided to make the change."
Eli Kirk closed with two Ks and one walk. Peyton tied the game at 3-3 on a base hit. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Panthers scored the winning run on a base hit.
Hotchkiss ends the season with a 19-4 record and the 2A/3A district title. They didn't have any big expectations resting on them at the start of the season, so getting the semifinals was a big accomplishment, said Carlquist. "They fought hard," said Carlquist. "Players did a good job buying into what we were preaching and working for."
Hotchkiss will lose five seniors. Kirk, Chase Hiatt and Josie Hiatt have signed to play ball at Colorado Northwestern Community College, and Gonzalez will pitch for Vernon College in Vernon, Texas, where he'll study welding.
A three-year varsity pitcher, Gonzalez was ranked in the top 10 in the state this season in ERAs (1.59) and in Ks, striking out 89 of 226 batters. At the plate Gonzalez averaged .434 this season and had a three-year combined average of .409.
"You don't easily replace a group like that," said Carlquist. "For a 2A school to have four kids get the opportunity to play at the next level, that's incredible. It's a testament to them."