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Blue-collar catcher keys Spartans’ rise

Kevin Dorantes isn’t a flashy player for Cimarron-Memorial’s baseball team.

The humble senior might as well wear a blue collar under his catcher’s mask, making him the perfect spokesman for the Spartans. Just ask his teammates.

“Kevin’s the man,” senior shortstop A.J. Hernandez said. “He kind of gets this team jelled together. He’s really relaxed and gets everybody else relaxed and focused. He’s more of a quiet leader, and he gets us going in games.”

Dorantes is a rare standout catcher and pitcher who doesn’t crave the spotlight for attention but to lift his teammates up.

“My priority is catching, but I love pitching when it comes to big games,” he said.

Dorantes made it his mission to return Cimarron to the postseason this year, and the 6-foot, 210-pound cleanup hitter has put in plenty of work to make it happen.

He is batting .430 and leads the Spartans in home runs (nine) and RBIs (51). On the mound, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 4.29 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 31 innings.

More important, Cimarron (22-7) sits in first place in the Northwest League at 12-3 only a year removed from missing the Sunset Region playoffs.

Dorantes has been at the center of the resurgence.

“You look at a lot of the guys we’ve had here in the past, and we’re not flashy,” Cimarron coach Mike Hubel said. “But we do have guys who are good, solid players who play fundamental baseball and play the game really well, and (Dorantes) is that type of guy.”

Dorantes said that Hubel, a former catcher at UNLV, has played a key role in his development.

Dorantes has gone from a first-time catcher his freshman year to one of the state’s top backstops as a senior.

“He’s a big, barrel-chested kid who’s stronger than an ox, but he moves well behind the plate,” Hubel said. “He’s got a good arm, he can hit, and he can run a pitching staff.”

Those qualities have netted Dorantes a scholarship to play next season at Cochise College in Douglas, Ariz.

But before he embarks on his bright future, Dorantes is driven to bring the Spartans the kind of success they experienced his sophomore year, when he was called up for the playoffs as Cimarron won the Sunset Region title and reached the Class 4A state finals.

Last year, a young Spartans team finished one win shy of the Sunset tournament, missing the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

“We learned how it felt not to make it to the playoffs, so we’ve pushed ourselves even more than the coaches expected,” Dorantes said. “It was pretty bad not making the playoffs after they made it to state (in 2009). The talks that Hubel gave us inspired the seniors to see what we could do.”

Cimarron fans had better get used to seeing a Dorantes behind the plate. Kevin’s younger brother, Ricky, wears No. 18 just like Kevin and is the starting catcher on the Spartans’ junior varsity team.

“I used to go hitting at On Deck (Baseball Academy) a lot, the whole summer,” Kevin Dorantes said. “Coaches there told me (Ricky) might be better than me.”

Still, there might be something irreplaceable about Kevin Dorantes.

“He’s learned the things he needed to in order to run an entire team,” Hubel said. “He’s the one guy who can see everything and make sure it’s run like a well-oiled machine. He’s been a real big asset for us back there.”

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