The Paonia baseball team opened the season last week with a 3-0 record.
In the first two games of the season, Paonia ace pitcher Soul Connolly has allowed one hit and one run in 13 innings. In the season-opening 7-0 win at Olathe last Tuesday, Connolly pitched a complete game, a no-hitter, striking out 17 and walking two.
It was the first no-hitter for Connolly, a lefty who pitched 27 innings in 11 games last season, including the state semi-final and championship games. "It was a great feeling," said Connolly, who didn't know he was throwing a no-hitter until the seventh inning and was close to the allowed 110 pitches in a single game. "Coach Sparks said to me, 'Hey, I don't want you to throw anymore than a hundred pitches and you're at 87. You have 13 to go throw a no-hitter.'"
On offense, Paonia had six hits and five RBIs for the game, scoring six runs in the top of the sixth inning. Juniors Carlos Lozano had one RBI, two stolen bases and two runs and Jai Petmezas hit a single and a double for two RBIs. Stealing bases were Connolly, Austyn Norris and Shane Odom.
In the 3-1 home conference win Saturday over Dolores, Connolly allowed one hit and one run in six innings. Facing Bears senior Dakota Smith, who an hour earlier knocked a homer out of the park at Hotchkiss, Connolly had faith in both himself and his pitching abilities.
"He's got a lot of movement on his fast ball," said assistant coach Nate Wiggins. "It has a mean tail and it's hard to hit."
Grey Neal closed on the mound against Dolores with three Ks. To go from a lefty to Neal's right-handed, low pitches "was just completely different look, it just baffled them," said Wiggins.
Dolores scored its sole run in the fourth inning on a double by sophomore Isaiah Knox. With two on base and one out, Petmezas caught a line drive at first, making the throw to Neal at second for the double play.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Connolly sent Norris, Gunner Putman and Petmezas home on a double to center field.
The Bears played a solid game, said Wiggins. "They're always putting a good team together" and bring good hitters to the game.
The Eagles also won Saturday's league game against Ignacio, 11-1, in five innings. Etter hit the team's first home run of the season, said Wiggins. "That's really good for Zeb," he said.
The team played well in both games, said Wiggins. "They did the small things that manufacture runs."