San Juan baseball team is riding a five-game winning streak over the past couple weeks

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The San Juan High School baseball team has had a busy past few weeks with games being shuffled here and there due to field issues and rescheduling complications.
But the team is beginning to settle into a rhythm and following an 8-7 loss to Grand County on March 18 they had strung together five straight wins heading into this week. At the start of the week the Broncos were 8-3 and ranked third in the Utah 2A RPI standings.
At the Grand Invitational March 17-18 they opened with a 16-1 drubbing of North Summit before the loss to the host squad. They closed the tourney with an easy 16-7 win over Ben Lomond.
On Tuesday, March 28 San Juan traveled to Kirtland, NM where they scored three runs in the top of the seventh to beat the Kirtland Broncos 8-5.
On Friday, March 31 they swept the North Sevier Wolves in a 2A East doubleheader 6-4 and 11-1. Most recently, on Wednesday, April 5, the Broncos squared off for a showdown with local rival Montezuma-Cortez in Blanding.
It was an exciting game that took extra innings to decide. The Panthers opened with a four-run first inning, then San Juan chipped away at the deficit, scoring one in the second and three in the third to tie the game.
The Broncos took their first lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth, but Cortez brought five baserunners across the plate in the top of the sixth to retake the lead 9-5.
San Juan answered with four of their own in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game once again, and that’s where it stayed until the tenth.
The Broncos held the Panthers scoreless in the top of the inning and took advantage when it was their turn at bat, scoring one run to take the win 10-9.
San Juan Head Coach Jens Nielson said the team was very pleased with their performance against Cortez. “We fought back twice after being down by four. The players didn’t get rattled. They trusted each other and came out with a big win.”
At this point of the season the Broncos are led offensively by sophomore Talon Mendoza, who is batting .400 on the season. In 30 at bats he’s collected 12 hits, six doubles, 12 runs batted in, and has scored 12 runs.
Junior Parker Snyder is right behind Mendoza, batting .387 with 12 hits, ten RBI, and eight runs scored. Sophomore Cooper Palmer is batting .364 on the season with eight hits, ten RBI, a triple, and four runs scored.
Senior Jerzy Nieves is .323 on the year with ten hits, three triples, nine RBI, and 11 runs scored. Senior Ian Johnson has the team’s lone home run on the season. He’s batting .304 with seven hits and eight RBI.
Senior Collin Baker is batting .297 for San Juan with 11 hits, 11 RBI, and 13 runs scored. Senior Garrett Young is .276 with eight hits, three RBI, and a team-high 16 runs scored.
Sophomores Branten Bethea and Jake Ivins are both batting .240 on the season. Bethea has six hits, five RBI, and ten runs scored while Ivins has six hits, seven RBI, and eight runs scored.
Young leads the team with 11 stolen bases. Baker has seven, Ivins six, Nieves five, and Bethea three. The trio of Snyder, Mendoza, and sophomore Brody Bilbao have stolen two apiece, and Johnson has one.
I hate to say this midseason and jinx anybody, but the defense of Parker Snyder has been off the charts. In 63 total chances in the field he has 52 putouts, 11 assists, and no errors.
Ian Johnson is right there too. Although his numbers aren’t as stunning, he’s a perfect 13-for-13 in the field. Garrett Young’s fielding percentage is .964 with 22 putouts and five assists in 28 chances. And Collin Baker is fielding .917 with 11 putouts in 12 chances.
Coach Nielson said at the beginning of the season he expected to have some good depth on the mound this season, and he was right.
He’s getting lots of strong pitching from starters Jerzy Nieves and Johnson with Mendoza and Snyder putting in a lot of work also. Ivins, Baker, freshman Jagger Nieves, and Young are filling in as needed.
Jerzy Nieves leads the pitching staff with 18 strikeouts, Johnson has 11, Snyder eight, Mendoza seven, Ivins and Baker have five apiece, and Jagger Nieves has fanned a couple.
San Juan pitchers are holding their opponents to a reasonable 6.5 runs per game while the Bronco offense is averaging 9.2 runs per game.
Coach Nielson likes where his team is at this point of the season and likes the stride they have hit, although he says there’s still work to be done.
“As long as we keep working hard, hold ourselves accountable, and get better and better, we will be the dangerous team we know we can be,” he stated.
It’s all local this week for the Broncos with two matchups against the Monticello Buckaroos. They were supposed to meet in Monticello on Tuesday, April 11, but that game was moved to Blanding due to field conditions.
The two rivals will face each other again on Friday, April 14 in Blanding starting at 3 p.m.

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