The Hotchkiss Bulldogs overcame a grand slam and a tough Dolores defense Saturday to win the 2A District 3/5 baseball tournament. They head into this week's state baseball playoff regional bracket with an 18-1 record and in second place in state standings.
In a game that came down to the final at-bats, a two-run homer by Marvin Guereque in the top of the seventh inning gave the Dogs the edge they needed to defeat Dolores, 8-7.
Coach Blake Carlquist knew the game wouldn't be a cake walk. Ranked ninth in state, Dolores (13-6) has two of the top hitters in the state, including No. 1-ranked senior Dakota Smith. In the Dogs' only loss of the season, Smith hit a three-run homer onto the K-8 school roof.
In Saturday morning's semifinal game, Dolores overcame a 7-0 deficit to defeat Rangely and advance to the championship game. "That's just another testimony to that Dolores baseball team," said Carlquist.
Originally scheduled to be played in Delta, the games were moved to Hotchkiss due to water on the field. In the first three innings of the championship game, senior Marvin Guereque struck out three and held the Bears to two hits and no runs.
In the bottom of the first, senior Presley Pene scored the opening run on a solo homer, his fifth HR of the season, over center field.
Dolores took a two-run lead in the fourth. With one run, no outs, the bases loaded and the Bears heading into the top of the batting order, junior Brian Gonzalez relieved Guereque. Gonzalez made the first out on an infield fly, struck out senior Cameron Chavez, then caught an infield fly off the bat of Bears sophomore hitter Kevin Purkat while Smith warmed up on deck.
Carlquist gave much of the credit for the win to Gonzalez. "I'm so proud of this kid," said Carlquist. "Giving up only one run, that was huge. He just executed pitches and held his own."
Guereque tied the game in the fourth, hitting a line drive single, advancing to second on a wild pitch, stealing third, and scoring on an error by Smith at third base.
In the fifth, Parker Pene dropped a single in the gap at center field, then scored on a groundout to center field by Presley Pene.
Guereque opened the bottom of the sixth on a double, and advanced to third on a line drive single by Gonzalez. In his only hit of the day, DH Yahir Chavez line drived to score Guereque and Gonzalez, then advanced to third on a sacrifice hit by Scarlett, scoring on an error to give Hotchkiss a 6-2 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the bases full. Smith tied the game on a grand slam homer. "He's a good hitter," said Carlquist. "We just missed our spot and he made us pay."
In the bottom of the sixth, Yanish relieved Gonzalez. In the top of the seventh, Pene got on base, and with one out, the Bulldogs took an 8-6 lead on a two-run homer by Guereque.
In the bottom of the seventh, two errors in the outfield allowed Dolores to score a run. With two outs, the winning run on second and Dolores charged up by the errors, the Bears sent a Yanish fast ball toward right fielder Will Scarlett for the final out.
"He held them at bay," said Carlquist of Yanish. He stayed tough, and we never lost faith in him or in ourselves."
Carlquist pointed to two big plays in the outfield for keeping the Bulldogs alive. In the top of the fifth, with two out and Bears runners on first and second, Scarlett made a diving catch between right and center fields to end the inning. In the sixth, following Smith's HR, Presley Pene made an inning-ending diving catch off the bat of Bears senior Niel Farias.
Pene said his game-opening HR helped set the tone for the game, "But we were already fired up."
Hotchkiss advanced to the championship game on a four-inning, 16-1 win over Paonia. Jamison Yanish had two HR and five RBIs in the win, Pene and Gonzalez each doubled, and Marvin Guereque was 3 for 3 with two 2B.
Ace pitcher Presley Pene allowed one hit and one earned run, walked two and struck out six in 16 at bats.
"Beating Paonia's always a good feeling," said Pene. "I would have expected a little bit more, but our bats have been on fire all season. We just continued to put the bat to the ball."
Hotchkiss will open the 2A Regional tournament at 9:30 a.m. Saturday against No. 15 Fowler. The winners advance to state quarterfinals against either No. 7 Dawson School or No. 10 Burlington. All regional and state championship games will be played at Runyon Complex in Pueblo.
Peyton (Dist. 8, 19-1), is ranked first in RPI standings. Also advancing to the Sweet 16 by virtue of a district win are Rye (Dist. 6, 21-1), Yuma (Dist. 2, 16-4), Front Range Christian (Dist. 4, 16-3), and Sargent (Dist. 1, 11-8). Based on RPI rankings Holly (16-4), Calhan (16-5), Holyoke (11-8), Wiggins (13-7), Clear Creek (12-7), Limon (11-11), and Rocky Ford (12-9) also advance to the regional tournament.