It's early in the season, and the weather has kept North Fork athletes indoors due to muddy fields and safety concerns. But the Hotchkiss baseball team was ready when it opened the season on March 18 with a 7-0 win over Basalt.
The Bulldogs allowed one hit and struck out 17 in seven innings.
It didn't take long for the Dogs to warm up their bats. In his first at-bat of the season, senior Marvin Guereque put the Bulldogs on the board on a three-run homer. Senior Jamison Yanish hit a solid RBI line drive single to center field in the second inning, and in the fourth inning, with two outs, senior Presley Pene hit a solo homer.
Pene also opened on the mound, throwing 12 Ks in 13 at bats and allowing one hit in four innings.
Guereque closed the game for Hotchkiss with five Ks and no hits in three innings of relief work.
On Thursday the Bulldogs had four hits and no errors to defeat Roaring Fork in five innings, 13-3.
In the bottom of the second, with two outs and bases loaded, Yanish hit a two-run single and junior Brian Gonzalez drove in two more runs on a single. Guereque, who was two-for-four, hit a two-run walk-off double in the fifth that hit the top of the fence between right and center fields.
Pene pitched four innings, allowing one hit, walking two and striking out 12. Guereque, again, closed with five Ks and one walk in three innings.
Despite the awkward score, the Rams were "very competitive," said Carlquist. "I knew they would send us some athletes. They do a good job coaching over there."
While they were allowed one hit, the Rams defense made 18 putouts in 20 total chances, with outfielder Trevor Ruess making 10 catches in right field. "I tell you what, they made some good plays," said Carlquist. "They took some doubles away from us."
It's a good start to the season for Carlquist, who is now in his fifth season as head coach. In the last four seasons the Bulldogs have amassed a 64-16 record. Last season Hotchkiss was undefeated in conference play to win the 2A District 3/5 title. It made it to the state semifinals, losing, 4-3, to the state runner-up, Peyton, and ended the season with a 19-4 record.
The team has been "very fortunate," said Carlquist. After losing a lot of talent to graduation, this year's returning players are stepping up their game. In terms of hitters, four of last year's top hitters, Pene, Guereque, Yanish and Jesus Macias, are seniors.
Other returning varsity players include juniors William Scarlett, Cooper Caudle, JD Miller and Hunter Bryant, and sophomores Christian Matus and Yahir Chavez. Four freshmen, Coulson Hollembeak, Tyler Marks and Will Pourtre, and Parker Pene, also made the varsity roster.
With a strict pitch count rule to follow, Carlquist has put five pitchers on the mound in two games, including the freshman Pene, Parker, who pitched three Ks in the fifth inning against Roaring Fork.
"With that pitch count (rule) we make sure that everybody can throw strikes and change speeds," said Carlquist. "We've been preparing."
With several other young players on the JV roster, "I think the future is pretty bright, for the next few years," said Carlquist. The main focus, however, is on this season. The Bulldogs open conference play against Dolores (2-2, 2A District 3/5) at 11 a.m. Saturday and face Ignacio (0-2, District 3/5) at 2 p.m.
After canceling Saturday's season-opener against Gunnison, Paonia opened the season Tuesday at Olathe. It hosts Ignacio at 11 a.m. Saturday, and Dolores at 2 p.m.