EATON – Like most Colorado towns well east of I-25, it’s hard to miss the farming community that surrounds Eaton.

Housing developments are a plenty, but within a half-mile of Eaton High School, farming land can stretch for a country mile.

But that’s the great myth of the town that sits north of Greeley and east of Fort Collins. More than an agricultural community, Eaton is a factory town. Only the factory in question doesn’t produce steel, textiles or electronics.

The Eaton factory’s chief product is baseball.

The two-time defending state champion looks to be well on its way to a third, especially after a 9-7 win over University on Friday. Eaton improved to 14-0 on the year and removed any doubt as to why it sits at No. 1 in the Class 3A Coaches Poll.

University has shown to be the toughest challenge for Eaton thus far, which isn’t surprising considering that the two teams on the field in that contest evenly account for the last four 3A state championships.

Eaton knows that winning a third straight is going to be a tough task and after outscoring opponents 94-14 so far this year, a tough game was something the team very much needed.

“We needed this,” coach Todd Hernandez said. “We needed this game. We gave up half [the runs] that we had given up all year. We had been behind at all this year until that first inning.”

The Bulldogs (13-2 overall, 6-1 Patriot) held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the third but back-to-back triples from Joey Blaskowski and Kade Gentry kickstarted the assembly line for Eaton.

They scored five runs in the inning and never relinquished the lead.

This is Eaton’s eighth straight win over University and it’s a feeling that’s getting a bit old for the Bulldogs.

“I’m tired of saying ‘Next time, next time, next time,’” University coach Casey Miller said. “Gosh dang it, today was the day. We had a good game plan, we pitched well and we hit well. Today our defense let us down which isn’t often the case. I told them before the game that I’m tired of saying next time, because that’s all we’ve been saying lately.”

For the last several years, Eaton seems to have reached the dominance it had for most of the mid-1990’s and the 2000’s.

While winning football championships has also been a common occurrence, make no mistake, this town – really the whole area of the state – centers around baseball.

“You see little kids running around here and they’re filming us and asking for autographs,” shortstop Walker Martin said. “They’re out here to support and they want to be a part of this. They’re growing up watching us just like I grew up watching Lane Greiman.”

There are certainly kids who stop what they’re doing and pay attention when Martin steps up to the plate. He made waves recently when he blasted home runs in nine consecutive games, one shy of tying a national high school record.

On the season, he’s batting .622 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. In recent history, Eaton kids have been talking about Ryan Ure, a standout pitcher who led Eaton to a state title in 2021.

But now the talk is Martin and the two other Division I commits. Tate Smith is heading to Oklahoma State and Mitch Haythorn will play at the University of Oklahoma. Martin will go to Arkansas, but onlookers will be eyeing the MLB Draft this summer to see if the standout gets taken in the early rounds.

Three Division I players on one roster sounds like something that happens more frequently at a Cherry Creek or Valor Christian. But Eaton’s baseball culture is breeding a crop of next-level players.

“You have to be fortunate,” Hernandez said. “We’re blessed that we have a lot of genetics that come through this program. And at the same time, you see it at the elementary school all the way through here. These kids want to play baseball.”

And when that’s the case, they play the game well. It seems to be a regional appeal as evidenced by University’s run of titles not too long ago.

The Patriot League has owned 3A baseball for most of the last decade. And as talented as the overall league is, until the machinery breaks down, the Eaton baseball factory looks like it’s going to produce more hardware.