In one week, two Paonia Eagles were one walk away from pitching a perfect game.
Paonia opened conference play Saturday with a 15-0 win over Dolores and a no-hitter for junior pitcher Jaden Miller. Miller, who faced 17 batters and struck out seven, was one walk away from a perfect game after walking a player in the fourth inning. Miller threw 66 pitches in five innings.
Head coach Nate Miller wasn't keeping count and almost pulled Miller from the mound at 46 pitches. "I was actually thinking about putting someone else in to pitch that last inning," said Miller. Because it's early in the season and he wants to give all of his arms a chance to pitch a few innings, if Jaden would have been in the 75 pitch range, said Miller, he would have pulled him.
Miller said he was keeping his count in the back of his mind and was glad he didn't get pulled. While he's thrown a couple of one-hitters for Paonia, the no-hitter was his first. "It was a good day all around," said Miller.
Dolores wasn't a bad team, said Coach Miller. "They put some pretty good swings on the ball." Later in the day Dolores sophomore Dakota Smith hit a two-run homer against Hotchkiss in the first inning.
Kayden Seriani was three-for-four with five RBIs and two home runs against Dolores. In his first at bat Seriani was at a full count when he sent the ball over left field for a home run. In the third Seriani doubled and Miller, who was three-for-three, followed up with a home run. In the fifth Seriani hit a three-run homer with two outs to give Paonia a 14-0 lead.
Coach Miller said he's happy with the home runs, "But I'm not happy with some of the big swings that we're taking." He would rather see strong line drives and hits that will work in the playoffs. Not to be critical of the players and their abilities, said Miller, but in state playoffs, "When we get to that big field in Pueblo, some of those (big hits) are easy outs. My goal is to hit (line drive) doubles."
The Eagles followed up with an 18-1 conference win over Ignacio. Trevor Smith hit one homer and was two-for-three with six RBIs. Miller and Seriani added another homer to their stats.
On the mound Smith allowed two hits and one earned run and struck out nine in five innings.
Last Tuesday Seriani was one walk away from pitching a perfect game in Paonia's 13-0 win at Olathe (1-7 3A WSL). Seriani faced 16 batters and threw 58 pitches in five innings. "KJ was throwing hard that day," said Coach Miller. It would have been pretty hard for any player to connect on his pitches.
It was also his first no hitter in his high school career. Miller was behind home plate throughout the game. "It was a good day for my pitcher-catcher combo," said Seriani.
After six games Miller and Seriani have the lowest ERAs -- 0.64 and 0.82, respectively -- in the district, and Seriani is second in Class 2A in strikeouts with 31.
At 6-0, Paonia remains the only undefeated team in the league. "We're starting to put it all together now that we got the cobwebs dusted off," said Seriani. After a heartbreaking semifinal loss last season, "We've been there," said Seriani, "So now our heads will be right there with our talent."
They know what a loss feels like when it's a high stakes game, said Miller. This season, "I think we've got what it takes to do it, finally."
The Eagles will host Coal Ridge at 2 p.m. today, followed by a junior varsity game at 4 p.m.
Paonia plays a doubleheader against Rangely at 2 and 4 p.m. on Friday at Volunteer Park. On Tuesday, April 11, Paonia will face its biggest challenge of the season when it faces 5A Grand Junction High School (7-3) at 5 p.m. at Canyon View Park.