CLASS 1A BASEBALL WEEKLY PREVIEW
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
While a handful of teams got their 2023 season underway within the last two weeks, most will see their first action of the campaign this week. All rankings come from the CHSAANow.com coaches poll.
A pair of doubleheaders dot the landscape on Monday, both in District 5. First, Prairie opens its year with two against Otis, the preseason #10 team who fell out of the rankings despite not having played a game.
The Bulldogs went 9-8 last year, falling to Dove Creek 16-15 in the regional semifinals. They did not lose a player to graduation and return the Wells brothers, Peyton and Carter, who combined for 58 runs scored, 56 driven in, and 15 extra base hits. They also swiped 50 bases between them.
Prairie is coming off a 9-5 season in which the Mustangs were ousted by Cheyenne Wells 11-1 in the regional semifinals. They had a big number of seniors who must be replaced if the Mustangs are going to be a surprise team inside the district.
The other doubleheader has #4 Haxtun visiting Akron. Haxtun went 16-8 last year, making it all the way to the state semifinals. The Fightin’ Bulldogs gave up a run in the top of the seventh to Holly and fell 6-5. They had a very veteran club a year ago, but also mixed some youth in at key positions, giving coaches across the state reason to expect another deep run.
Four straight losses to end the season caused Akron to have a losing record, 10-13, in 2022. The Rams lost four seniors to graduation, including their leading hitter (Xavier Livesay), but return a very talented group that includes Anderson Filla, who drove in 22 runs as a freshman. Five of their six top pitchers a year ago were either freshmen or sophomores.
Highlighting the Tuesday slate is #3 Simla hosting 2A Byers. Simla split a pair of games last week, dropping a 9-3 contest to 2A #1 Peyton on Wednesday and beating 2A Colorado Springs Christian 12-2 on Saturday. The Cubs were held to just three hits in the loss to Peyton. They registered nine knocks in the win over CSCS, but it was their aggressive approach on the bases that really paid off. Simla stole a dozen bags in the victory.
Byers is off to an 0-4 start, with the Bulldogs being outscored 71-5 in those contests. The Bulldogs have only picked up two hits so far, both by Chase Long. One of those was a double.
Cheyenne Wells (#6) welcomes McClave in for a double-dip on Tuesday, with the Tigers looking to erase the memories of their regional semifinal loss to Haxtun. Ty Scheler and Blake Gilmore give them two solid options on the mound, and the program is boosted by several players from Kit Carson.
McClave is on its own for baseball for the first time in more than a decade, as their co-op program (County Line) with Wiley is no more. Aiden Martinez drove in 23 runs and racked up 11 doubles last season for the Rivals. He also picked up three wins on the hill.
Fifth-ranked Stratton begins the season with something the Eagles have been lacking in recent years… seniors. Six members of the program will be suiting up for their final year, with two coming from neighboring schools. Cooper Seaman (Hi-Plains) and Camden Bledsoe (Flagler) anchor the left side of the infield when they’re not pitching. Seaman had shoulder surgery last summer, but was back for basketball. The Eagles travel to 2A Burlington for the league opener for both clubs.
Stratton has an edge in experience, as most of the roster is beginning its third season together, and many in the same positions as in the past. Burlington will be breaking in a new outfield, two infielders, and must find a new #1 on the mound.
The defending state champion, Merino, begins the season as the unanimous #1 choice in the coaches poll. The Rams open their defense at home with a single game against Peetz. Merino returns all but three players from last year’s run, Kaden Piel and Deacon Trenkle combined to go 14-0 with 23 earned runs allowed over 112.1 innings. Both posted sub-2.00 ERAs.
After not fielding its own team last year, Peetz comes into the season with a very inexperienced roster. It’s a baptism by fire for the Bulldogs, who have to turn around and play two on Friday against Otis.
Most of the games on Friday include teams we’ve already mentioned. Cheyenne Wells takes on Baca County in a doubleheader, while Stratton hosts La Veta for two, and Akron visits 2A Wray.
Baca County returns most of its roster from last year, including Leyton Jones, who led the team in almost every offensive stat. The Wolverines will need to get more consistency from their pitchers this season if they want to make a deep run. They were bounced from the postseason by Cheyenne Wells in districts last year.
La Veta is looking to bounce back from a 5-14 2022 season, in which the Redhawks lost 10 of their last 11 games. They return their top four hitters from last season, so the offense should be in good shape. However, their returning pitchers only worked around 40 innings.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes Wray to get its baseball bearings after the Eagles won the 2A state basketball title less than two weeks ago. Joey Uyemura and Chris Arambula combined for 70 runs scored and 40 stolen bases last year, and they collected five of the 11 wins racked up by the Eagles.
While most of the match-ups on Saturday have 1A teams facing tough 2A competition, there is one doubleheader of note between two 1A foes. Cotopaxi, just outside of the top-10 this week, hosts Manzanola. Manzanola split two games on opening weekend, beating Miami-Yoder 17-9 and then falling 30-4 to 2A Dolores Huerta Prep. Freshman Jason Headley drove in five runs over that weekend.
Cotopaxi won its opener 10-5 over South Park back on March 9th, with Ty Coleman driving in three runs and picking up the win on the mound. Coleman allowed two earned runs over 3.1 innings, with 10 strikeouts. The Pirates stole 19 bases, six by Wes Westberg.