With six Paonia baseball players receiving all-state honors from the Colorado High School Activities Association, it's easy to see why the Eagles went undefeated this season. They are loaded with talent. Of those six players, three, Kayden Seriani, Slater Podgorny and Jaden Miller, are juniors with one more season ahead of them.
Seriani, who was also named the Class 2A Player of the Year by the CHSAA was named recently to The Denver Post All-Colorado baseball team. A pitcher/outfielder, he is the only baseball player living west of the Continental Divide to be honored by the Post.
"I love the sport," said Seriani in an early May interview. "I love to go out and pitch. I love the feeling you get when you're out on the diamond. There's nothing better than an 8 o'clock game. You're under the lights, fresh-cut grass. That's the greatest thing in the world."
Seriani, who has committed to play for Grand Canyon University, started his career playing T-ball. His dad, Eagles assistant coach Jon Seriani, was an all-state baseball player from Palisade who played on three of the four consecutive state champion football teams Palisade had in the early 1990s. In shaping him as a player, "My dad put in a lot of time," he said.
He played little league until age 9, then joined a 12-year-old competitive team. He has played up ever since. Size-wise, said Seriani, who is now 6-2 and weighs 200, he was small but still managed to fit right in. "I held my composure fairly well," he said.
Seriani's family moved to Paonia his freshman year. By that time he'd already played with, and against, juniors and seniors. The CHSAA deemed the move a sports-related transfer, and he was required to sit out and pitch for the JV team, which was undefeated for the season.
Miller and Seriani grew up in Palisade and started playing baseball together at age 11. They hung out a lot, said Seriani, and eventually became the little league team's pitcher-catcher combination. This season, Miller, son of head coach Nate Miller, had just two defensive errors, and is stopping pitches that have clocked at 93-94 mph.
All of the catchers on the team are competent, said Seriani, but Miller is the best. "Jaden knows how to frame, and he's really good at what he does... I like to have confidence in my catcher. And it makes my job that much easier. And it makes me look better because of how good he is."
While Seriani is known for his pitching -- most of his time is spent in the outfield. Even in little league he only pitched every fifth or sixth game. Seriani said he didn't start standing out as a pitcher until the last two or three years.
He's also good at the plate. He's always had good contact, possibly because his dad taught him to bat using a golf ball. In 199 plate appearances this season he struck out five times. But, he said, he didn't have a lot of power behind his swings until the last two or three seasons. This year he was ranked third in state in slugging, had a .553 batting average, scored 44 runs and chalked up 40 RBIs, eight doubles and two triples. He's ranked fourth in state, all classes, in home runs with nine.