• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Dawson baseball seniors will miss graduation to play for a chance at the 2A state championship Saturday. They are, from left, Chris Slade, Tanner Fulkerson, Max McClellan, Michael Nannen, and Zac Somerville.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Dawson's Max McClellan catches a throw at home plate during practice May 27 in Lafayette.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Dawson's Tanner Fulkerson bunts the ball during practice May 27 in Lafayette.



Among the five seniors on the Dawson School baseball team that attend the school, you’re not likely going to see tears shed at the fact they won’t be tossing their graduation caps or walking the diploma line with their classmates Saturday morning.

“Everybody here would definitely rather be on the field than in the tent where graduation is going to be. No one is really bummed that we’re going to miss it,” catcher Max McClellan said Wednesday. “We would way rather be on the baseball field.”

The field McClellan is referring to is Pueblo’s Andenucio Field, site of their Class 2A semifinal game against Sedgwick County. With a win, a state championship game appearance would immediately follow against either Limon or Paonia.

That’s how close the Mustangs — which seniors McClellan, Tanner Fulkerson, Michael Nannen, Chris Slade and Zac Somerville have helped build essentially from the ground up — are to realizing a season-long and career-long goal.

The group of seniors actually will get the best of both worlds — they’ll be celebrated by the school on Friday with the rest of the seniors during the rehearsal. Almost all the pomp and circumstance will be included — even the photos that normally accompany the accomplishment.

But in reality, the Mustangs as a whole are focused on baseball and winning the school’s first title in the sport. Last week at the very same field they’ll take on Saturday, the Mustangs proved they belonged in the final four by crushing Rocky Ford 5-0 and Dayspring Christian — a longtime nemesis — 13-3.

In fact, Dawson beat both Dayspring and Resurrection Christian two times apiece this year — and the Mustangs had never beaten Rez before in their history.

“I don’t think nerves will be too big of a problem because during (the first two rounds of state) we handled everything real well,” McClellan said. “It was nice to know that, even though it was our first time to state, we were all so calm and collected. We’re ready to be good, and we felt this was our year since the beginning.”

“Our defense have been great and our bats have come alive lately,” added Fulkerson, who will play baseball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut next year. “Rez has been a powerhouse, a consistent top-5 team, so beating them twice proves a point. We can compete with anyone in the state.”

Sedgwick County is a team Dawson hasn’t seen much of if at all, as are Limon and Paonia. While Limon and Sedgwick have some common opponents between them, Paonia has played Rez and Dayspring as well, going 3-0 against them.

Right now, however, the confidence is sky-high in the Dawson School dugout and the smiles abound. For the seniors, 2016 has been a success no matter what the outcome this weekend. After all, between their freshmen and sophomore seasons, Dawson won four games combined.

“It’s great to see the turnaround. Freshmen year was rough, but we’ve come this far and it’s a perfect ending as seniors,” Fulkerson said. “We’re going to remember the entire weekend in a special way.”

Adam Dunivan: or