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Merino ends magical Dove Creek state run

The Dove Creek baseball team celebrates their regional title, earning the Bulldogs a spot in the 1A state semifinals. Photo courtesy of Megan Daves Warner
Bulldogs’ postseason run ends in semifinals

LAKEWOOD – For a group of seven Dove Creek seniors, they couldn’t ask much more than the opportunity to play on the final day of the 2024 season in the 1A state tournament.

While their state semifinal against No. 1 seed Merino at Keli McGregor Field in Lakewood didn’t go as planned on Thursday morning, the Bulldogs showed the same grit and fight that characterized their careers.

Merino (18-6) broke open a 1-all contest in the second inning, plating 12 runs in the frame and sending the Rams to the title game with a 20-1 victory. Each of the seven D.C. seniors saw action in the defeat, as head coach Trent Daves made sure that each senior would remember their deepest state run as a program in their four years.

Senior Aiden Chadd took the ball to begin the game for the ‘Dogs, and aside from an inside-the-park home run from Ram senior Tyler Miller in the first inning, kept the Rams at bay.

Dove Creek (9-12) responded in the second inning, as senior Jonathan Purkat doubled to lead off the frame, followed by junior Sheldon Gardner reaching on an error. Senior Hunter Daves advanced Purkat to third on a groundout before Chadd stepped to the dish and knocked an RBI single to right field to knot up the score at 1.

Dove Creek senior Hunter Daves, who provided one of the steady senior arms for the Bulldog pitching staff this season, fires a pitch in the state semifinal game against Merino. Photo courtesy of Megan Daves Warner

Senior Mike Coffey followed with a walk to load the bases, but the Bulldogs couldn’t seize the lead as Merino pitcher Josiah Mackintosh evaded further damage.

The momentum swing led the top seed to get the bats fired up in their half of the inning, batting around to build a 13-1 lead, before adding seven more runs in the third.

Daves and classmate Gage Buffington came on to pitch in relief of Chadd, while senior Taber Dejane provided a steadying influence behind the plate for the Bulldog defense. Senior Jarrett Cressler earned a plate appearance in the fourth inning, but Merino closed the door on any comeback bid as Dove Creek’s season came to a close.

Dove Creek catcher Taber Dejane and the Bulldogs battled the elements and a rigorous schedule to make their way to the 1A state semifinals. Photo courtesy of Megan Daves Warner.

In their four year careers, the Bulldogs compiled a record of 41-38, with their state semifinal appearance joining a regional title and a pair of district crowns in their careers.