They had a bumpy start to the season, but with five games remaining, the 9-4 Paonia Eagles remain the only undefeated team in 2A Region 3/5 play. They started hitting their stride in early April with a come-from-behind 8-7 win over 3A Roaring Fork.
Trailing 6-1, the team came alive in the sixth inning, said head coach Ricky Sparks. A two-RBI homer by Shane Odom, his first HR of the season, "sparked the team and gave us some energy."
The Eagles scored five runs in the sixth to tie the game at 7-7, and scored the winning run in the top of the seventh before retiring the Rams. "It was the first time this season we put together a seven-inning game," said Sparks.
The win started a five-game winning streak for the Eagles and marked a turning point in the season for both offensive and defensive teams for the season. "We're not the same team from the start of the season," said Sparks.
After sweeping a two-game series against Rangely, 2-0, 13-4, the Eagles defeated 3A Basalt, 1-1, 2-7, last Thursday, 12-3.
David Lozano pitched "a great game" for the win, said Sparks. By not hitting his maximum 110 pitches, he also saved other arms for last Friday's non-conference games at Nucla and Dove Creek.
The Eagles opened the day with a 10-3 win over Nucla. Soul Connolly pitched just over five innings and kept the team in the game, said Sparks.
Carlos Lozano closed, giving up one HR to Mustangs senior Will Gabriel.
At the plate, they hit the ball well, including a big two-run double by Connolly, and used aggressive base running throughout the game. With the game tied at 1-1 after two innings, Paonia scored three runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings. Again, said Sparks, another seven innings of solid ball-playing.
The Eagles winning streak ended on a 4-2 loss to Dove Creek (11-4, 2-2, 1A District 1). Two factors led to the loss, said Sparks. First, Bulldog pitchers "threw a lot of junk and really mixed things up. They really kept us off balance," he said.
Second, while there were no "big catastrophic failures in the loss," said Sparks, "We didn't get the big hits when we needed them." Paonia ended two innings with the bases loaded.
Grey Neal pitched a complete game, giving up only one single, walking three and striking out five.
The Eagles have two more home games remaining before district play opens on May 10. The two home games include a game this Thursday at 4 against Hotchkiss (see related story), and a second game against Nucla's Mustangs with a noon starting time on Tuesday, April 30.
Paonia ends 2A District 3/5 conference play May 3 with double-header games in Meeker.
The day's first game of the twin bill is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the final game has a 3 p.m. starting time.