PUEBLO — Success is the best medicine.
That's how Paonia felt at the conclusion of the Class 2A state baseball tournament. The Eagles thought they would hoist championship gold a year ago. They lost in the semifinals and had the tears to show for it. But with nearly the entire team returning in 2017, they weren't going to be denied again.
They topped Rocky Ford 6-0 on Saturday. They rejoiced. They hugged. They cried again. But these were tears of joy; tears of champions.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world," pitcher and infielder Trevor Smith said. "We thought we had a good chance at it last year, and losing in that first game gave us the feeling that we wanted to come back and we wanted to come back on top. And we did."
It was the Eagles' (24-0 overall) day from start to finish. Before getting to the title game they had to get through County Line (McClave/Wiley) in the semifinals. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning of that game thanks in part to a two-RBI single from K.J. Seriani.
The junior also dominated on the mound, striking out 15 Rivals hitters while surrendering just four hits. Paonia ended up winning the game 10-0 and felt right there that it was going to be its day.
"We had a lot rolling in the first game," Seriani said. "A lot of players that had been struggling hit the ball well this morning and that carried over."
It certainly did.
Rocky Ford downed Lyons 7-2 in the second semifinal game of the day. The 2:30 p.m. scheduled start for the championship game was moved up 20 minutes on account of weather, so it didn't seem like the Meloneers (18-6) would have enough time to cool down.
But it turns out that the Eagles couldn't be cooled down with anything short of a late-May snowstorm.
The heat just transferred over to different players. Seriani got the Eagles on the board early with a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Slater Podgorny. Jaden Miller walked and Smith moved him over to third on a single. Both would score on an Alex Lozano single up the middle.
Smith was showing early that it was a day for the pitchers to help their own cause.
"When you're on the mound, you know the strike zone a little bit more," Smith said. "It helps you relax a little bit better."
And he certainly looked relaxed in the third inning when he absolutely unloaded on a pitch up the zone, putting it over the center field wall for a solo home run. The Eagles would eventually score two more, but it was that moment when they felt the championship had been won.
"Absolutely," Paonia coach Nate Miller said. "And there were some times in there that we really could've pounded it to them, but we couldn't get it done. But that was a real momentum picker upper right there."
This is the seventh baseball title for Paonia and its first since 2003. Miller was part of the team that rattled off three-straight from 1996-98, but Saturday's win is something he'd never trade away.
"It was pretty special when I won the three here with the group I had," Miler said. "But this is more special to me. Having my boy out here, having all these guys, they're all my boys. Winning those was pretty neat, but not like this."