Bronco baseball falls to Grand in one-loss QF

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
Following their 9-4 loss to Beaver in the 2A Utah State Baseball second round the San Juan Broncos knew they had a long road ahead in the battle for the 2024 state championship.
They would need seven straight wins, in fact, beginning with a one-loss second round matchup in Blanding, which gave them one last opportunity to play on their home field this season.
Parowan came to town on Tuesday, May 7 for that matchup and early on it looked like it would be a last-to-score type of affair. The teams combined for ten runs in the first inning with San Juan leading 6-4.
But the Broncos blew the game open in the top of the third when they scored nine runs to stretch their lead to 15-4. The Rams never threatened from that point on as San Juan mercy-ruled the Rams 17-5 in five innings.
San Juan collected 13 hits in the win and Parowan helped them out by committing six errors which resulted in five unearned runs.
Four different Broncos drove in two runs each: Parker Snyder, Talon Mendoza, Corbin Middleton, and Cooper Palmer. Snyder and Mendoza were both 2-for-2 on the day, Palmer was 2-for-3, and Middleton was 1-for-2.
Jake Ivins, Brody Bilbao, Branten Bethea, and Jagger Nieves all got one RBI apiece. Ivins had two hits in the game and the rest had one.
San Juan has specialized in small-ball this season and part of that is aggressive baserunning. They stole eight bases against Parowan with Derrick White leading the way with two. Six other Broncos stole one apiece.
Three pitchers joined forces to help earn the win for Parker Snyder, who struck out three of the 11 batters he faced and allowed four hits and four runs in two innings.
Baylor Nielson also put in two innings of work, striking out three and allowing two hits and one run. Jagger Nieves pitched one inning, striking out one and walking one.
With the victory San Juan advanced to the one-loss third round where they would face a tough Milford squad as the tournament moved to its final location at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, May 9.
As expected, it was a tough battle and it was anybody’s game through its midpoint. The Tigers opened the scoring with one run in the top of the first, but the Broncos answered with four in the bottom of the inning to take a 4-1 lead.
Milford pulled to within one run when they scored two in the top of the second but San Juan got one of those back in the bottom half.
The Broncos added one more run in the bottom of the third to make the score 6-3 and that’s where it stayed until the fifth inning.
Milford scored one run in the top of the inning to make the score 6-4, but San Juan put together their best at bat of the game with five runs in the bottom of the inning to stretch their lead to 11-4.
The Tigers got one final run in the top of the seventh but that was all as the Broncos closed out an 11-5 win to advance to the one-loss quarterfinals.
Mendoza led the way at the plate with a 3-for-4 game including a triple and three RBIs. Snyder, Bilbao, and Cooper Palmer all got one hit and two RBIs apiece.
Nieves was 2-for-3 with one RBI and Middleton got one hit and one RBI. Jaiten Knight had an excellent game on the mound, allowing nine hits and five runs while striking out five in 6.2 innings of work. Jake Ivins came in late, retiring the only batter he faced for the final out of the game.
When Grand County was upset by Duchesne in the quarterfinals it set up a final showdown between the Broncos and Red Devils in the one-loss quarterfinals. The winner would move on with a chance at the state title and the loser would be done for the year.
During the regular season Grand County beat San Juan twice while the Broncos won one against their longtime rivals. Grand won 12-3 in Blanding on April 26, but the other two games were tight battles.
Their fourth matchup of the year on Friday, May 10 was another hard-fought close battle. The Red Devils got out of the gate quickly with three runs in the first inning, then added one in the top of the third.
That was all the offense in the game. Grand pitcher Kalan Bowden allowed just four San Juan hits and struck out six in an impressive shutout effort, guiding his team to a 4-0 win.
When the Red Devils scored three runs on Corbin Middleton in the first inning, Coach Jens Nielson pulled his starter and Baylor Nielson came on to pitch 5.1 solid innings, allowing just four hits and one run for the remainder of the game.
But the Broncos just couldn’t get the offense in gear against their all-too-familiar foe that had their number all season. Branten Bethea did go 2-for-4 at the plate in the loss but nobody was able to drive him in. Middleton and Cooper Palmer got the other two San Juan hits in the game.
The Broncos closed out the year with a very solid 20-8 overall record, their most wins in at least 17 seasons. They were second to who else but Grand County in the 2A East with a 10-2 record.
They outscored their opponents 271-128 this year and there were numerous outstanding individual offensive performances.
Junior Cooper Palmer was an impressive 40-for-88 to lead the team with a .455 batting average. His 40 RBIs also led the team and were fourth-most in the state. He hit 12 doubles this season, two triples, and one home run.
Derrick White batted .390, going 30-for-77 with five doubles, three triples, and 18 RBIs. Branten Bethea was 33-for-85 for a .388 average with five doubles, six triples, and 18 RBIs. His 27 stolen bases led the team and were seventh-most in the state.
Talon Mendoza was 27-for-72 at the plate for a .375 average. He hit six doubles, five triples, and one homer. His 24 RBIs were third-most on the team.
Corbin Middleton batted .370, going 20-for-54 with four doubles, a team-leading two home runs, and 21 RBIs. Parker Snyder, the only senior on the team, went 32-for-87 for a .368 average. He had the second-most RBIs with 28 and hit seven doubles, two triples, and one homer.
Jagger Nieves was 17-for-50 at the plate for a .340 average. He hit two doubles, one triple, and drove in 14 runs. Brody Bilbao was 20-for-61, averaging .328 with six doubles, two triples, one homer, and 16 RBIs.
Jake Ivins carried a .324 batting average, going 24-for-74 at the plate with five doubles, two triples, and 15 RBIs. Cash Palmer hit .323 with ten hits in 31 at bats. He hit three doubles and drove in 11 runs.
Jaiten Knight was 6-for-32 for a .188 average with a double and seven RBIs. Sophomore Brigham Nielson saw limited action this season but was pretty impressive with a .500 batting average. He was 5-for-10 with a double and three RBIs in 16 games.
As previously stated Branten Bethea was fourth in the state this year with 27 stolen bases, but the Broncos had numerous other well-accomplished thieves on the roster to help him out.
Bilbao stole 17 bases, White and Snyder got 13 apiece, Ivins and Nieves collected 11 each, Mendoza swiped nine, Knight got four, Middleton and Nielson two each, and Palmer stole one.
San Juan got excellent pitching this season from mainly seven athletes. Jaiten Knight, Talon Mendoza, and Parker Snyder handled the bulk of the work, but Ivins, Nieves, Nielson, and Middleton saw regular action in relief.
Knight pitched a team-high 40.2 innings, allowing 25 earned runs on 57 hits while striking out 30 batters. Mendoza led the team with 48 strikeouts and allowed just 35 hits and 19 earned runs in 36.1 innings of work.
Snyder allowed only 18 hits and 15 earned runs while striking out 35 batters in 26 innings pitched. Ivins pitched 15.1 innings, allowing eight runs on 16 hits while striking out 20.
Nieves also pitched 15.1 innings, allowing just seven earned runs on 12 hits with 19 strikeouts. Nielson struck out ten batters in the 13 innings he pitched, allowing five earned runs on 13 hits.
And Middleton struck out an impressive 13 batters in just 10.1 innings pitched. He allowed five earned runs on ten hits.
Following the premature end of the season San Juan Head Coach Jens Nielson expressed several thoughts to the San Juan Record.
“What a great season with some great ball players,” he said. “We felt like we had the team to win it all this year. We are upset we didn’t go farther but not disappointed in how the boys played.
“They came up against a good Grand team and played very well. We put the ball in play, played solid defense, and pitched well enough to win the ballgame.
“We had several solid hits that just wouldn’t drop. If a few of those drop and we get some timely hits, it’s a different outcome.
“I am proud of this team and their accomplishments. Twenty wins at any level is tough to do. We will miss Parker Snyder, but look forward to competing next year. Watch out for these boys next year. They will be hungry to compete, and it should be another great year.”

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday