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Paonia, Hotchkiss in regional/state bracket at Runyon in Pueblo

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Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia junior KJ Seriani, scoring one of his nine home runs for the season, is one of several top-ranked players in the state in the Eagles' lineup. Paonia enters this week's regional bracket as the No. 1 seed. Hotchkiss is seeded eigh

Paonia and Hotchkiss will advance to regional baseball competition in Pueblo this week after placing 1-2 at the 2A District 3/5 tournament at Grand Valley High School in Parachute Saturday.

Hotchkiss, which is seeded eighth in the state, takes a 15-5 record into the regional tournament. In district semifinals Hotchkiss defeated Meeker, 5-2. The Cowboys ended their season with a 14-7 record.

The Bulldogs had five hits and one error in the win. Preley Pene was 1-4 with one RBI and one double, and Devin Curtis was 2-3 with three RBIs and a triple.

Meeker, which ended the season with a 14-7 record, put up a good fight, said head coach Blake Carlquist. "They hit the ball as good as anyone in the league." Hotchkiss responded well, taking a 2-1 lead in the second inning. With runners lined up to score, "Meeker was kind of knocking on the door" when Jonathan Gonzalez ended the inning on a double play.

Meeker senior Hunter Garcia was 3-4, drove in both runs for Meeker, including one solo home run.

Undefeated Paonia barely skipped a beat in winning the district title. After a first-round bye the Eagles pummeled Dolores, 28-1, in semifinals play. Slater Podgorny was 2-5 with four RBIs and Jaden Miller was 3-4 with three RBIs and the only triple in the game. Kelby Carver was 3-4 and hit the team's only double.

On the mount Carver struck out five and walked two in five innings and had three putouts. Trevor Smith allowed two hits and one run in three innings.

After a good game against Meeker, Hotchkiss had five errors in the title game against Paonia. The defense didn't play as well as it could have, said Carlquist. "When you play like that against a team like Paonia, it's hard to get a win."

Ace pitcher KJ Seriani threw just 87 pitches in five innings against Hotchkiss. Seriani walked one, struck out eight and allowed six hits.

Regional games open Friday morning at Runyon Sports Complex in Pueblo. Other district champions Sargent (11-10), Sedgwick County (19-3), Burlington (17-3), County Line (Wiley/McClave -- 17-2), Dayspring Christian Academy (Lafayette -- 14-4), and Peyton (20-1) also advance to the regional tournament.

Hotchkiss is one of five teams to advance to regionals based on the team's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) score that measures a team's strength relative to other teams based largely on the strength of their schedules. The Colorado High School Activities Association adopted the RPI in 2016. Based on an RPI of .603, Hotchkiss is ranked eighth in the state.

The Bulldogs are familiar with some of the teams in the tournament, said Carlquist. The Bulldogs swept a two-game series at Sargent on May 4. Haxtun, Rocky Ford, Evangelical Christian and Front Range Christian have the next highest RPI, according to the CHSAA.

Paonia remains in first place in Class 2A rankings, both in their win/loss record and Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

The Eagles face No. 16 Sargent (11-10) at 10 a.m. on May 19 at Pueblo's Runyon Complex.

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