DENVER – With the 2021-22 athletic calendar kicking off in just a few weeks, the Colorado High School Activities Association put a bow on the final awards from the 2020-21 season, wrapping up with naming five athletes from Montezuma and Dolores counties to all-state baseball teams.
The nominees joined four La Plata County diamond standouts on the state’s highest honor roll.
Dove Creek’s Hayden Gray headlined the nominations, earning a second team all-state selection for a stellar senior campaign, where the Bulldog raked at a .457 batting average, to go along with his dominance on the mound, posting a 5-1 record and a 3.47 ERA. Gray paced the Bulldogs to a 10-7 record and a state quarterfinal appearance in the 1A tournament.
Joining Gray on the 1A all-state team, senior Kevin Purkat also demonstrated his range, leading the Dove Creek defense from his shortstop position, taking the mound for 11 appearances, and ranking among the team leaders in virtually every offensive category. Purkat, a recent graduate of Dolores High School, posted a .426 batting average, while co-leading the team in hits, to earn him recognition on the honorable mention all-state squad.
As for Montezuma-Cortez, the Panthers landed three honorable mention selections in the 3A classification, thanks to a runner-up finish in the Intermountain League, and a trip to the 3A regional tournament.
Recent graduate Ty Blackmer added to his lengthy list of post-season accolades with a nod from the state selection committee, to join his recent all-state selection in football, and an all-league honor from the IML. Like Gray and Purkat, Blackmer proved to be a dual threat, leading the Panthers in several offensive categories, while mowing down hitters in his trips to the mound.
Fellow graduate Ernesto Padilla also posted an excellent year, earning first team all-conference to join his honorable mention all-state nod. Padilla led the team in strikeouts, as the Panthers posted an 8-8 record to earn their second .500 season in the past four years.
Double machine Braden Hallman earned his way onto the all-state team after an outstanding sophomore year. Hallman became the regular starting catcher for the Panthers, while proving that his bat was as lethal as any in the Panther line-up, as he paced the team with nine extra-base hits. Hallman landed on the All-IML first team, as well, to accompany his all-state selection.
After a sparkling season for Durango baseball, including a top-seed in the 4A regional tournament, the Demons placed a pair of standouts on the 4A honorable mention all-state list. Seniors Gage Mestas and Cal Walsh added one more accolade to fantastic careers for the red-and-black.
Mestas set the table for the Demon offense, leading the team with 30 hits and 30 runs scored, reaching base in more than half his plate appearances. He proved to be a menace on the base paths, as well, leading the team in stolen bases. Mestas also made six appearances on the mound, collecting an ERA of 2.33, second on the team only to Walsh’s incredible 0.83 ERA.
Walsh’s prominence on the mound coupled with his production as part of an offense that averaged nearly 10 runs per game. He finished second on the team in hits, and anchored a defense that only committed 12 errors all season. His 25 strikeouts finished only second to Mestas on the team, and he conceded two earned runs during his time on the hill.
The scouting report on the Wolverines became evident as the season progressed – pitch to Noah Chamblee at your own peril. The sophomore slugger punished anyone who dared face him in the course of a fantastic campaign, earning him a second team all-state selection. Chamblee joined senior Cade Carlson on the state’s honor roll in an IML title season for Bayfield baseball.
Chamblee’s season defied description, as he lacerated opposing pitching, en route to a 13-4 season, and a perfect run through the Intermountain League. The first baseman collected 32 hits in 49 official at-bats, while leading the team in RBIs, on-base percentage, and slugging, earning a first team IML nod in the process.
Carlson, meanwhile, capped his Wolverines career in style, finishing second to Chamblee in hits and RBIs, while leading the team in extra-base hits and runs scored. The senior enjoyed a stunning 25-3 record in league play during his career, and helped pace the Wolverines to a second consecutive regional final appearance, all while earning an all-state honorable mention selection.