by Tad Barton
Perfect baseball weather in March isn’t something the players and fans at San Juan are used to.
“Just wait until the games start,” tends to be a running joke amongst the Bronco faithful on warm sunny days in early spring in Blanding.
Instead of clouds and wind rolling in as the teams took the field, players and fans alike were treated to near perfect playing conditions at the San Juan Slugfest Tournament, which was played March 17-18 in Blanding.
San Juan must have brought good weather back after kicking off the season the previous week at the Cactus Classic Tournament in Mesquite, NV where they went 2-2.
The Broncos had a rough start to Slugfest, dropping their first game to the Summit Academy Bears, 7-2, before righting the ship against the Delta Rabbits, 14-4; Kirtland Central Broncos, 12-6; and then closing with a 19-4 win over Dove Creek.
The three wins and one loss push the Bronco season record to 5-3, setting up their first league game of the season on Friday, March 24 at Gunnison.
In San Juan’s first game of the Slugfest Tournament, the Broncos were plagued late in the game with errors, which ultimately led to their defeat.
Both teams got on the score board early, each scoring one run in the first inning. San Juan’s run came when Jaxon Lee scored from third on a Kavika Su’eSu’e single to tie it up after one inning.
The Bears added another run in the third inning to take a 2-1 lead over the Broncos. Trailing 2-1 heading into the sixth, San Juan was in a great position to strike when multiple errors in the top half of the sixth led to five Summit Academy runs and a 7-1 lead for the Bears.
The Broncos still had a chance to pull off the win but were only able to score one more run when Bayl’r Eldredge scored from second on a Su’eSu’e base hit, leading to a 7-2 final score in favor of the Bears.
Eldredge was credited with the loss in spite of a solid outing in which he went 5 2/3 innings and gave up just three hits, only two earned runs and picked up four strikeouts.
Jordan Blake finished the game for San Juan, surrendering just one hit and no earned runs.
Just a few hours after letting one slip away, San Juan was back in action, this time against Delta. The Broncos started off the scoring for the game with two runs in the first inning when Lee scored on an error and Su’eSu’e scored on a Trez Perkins double.
San Juan added three more runs in the bottom of the second when Corbin Palmer, Tanner Johnson and Blake crossed the plate to make it 5-0.
The Rabbits showed some life in the top of the third when they scored a pair of runs to pull within three, 5-2. That would be as close as they would get as San Juan had their biggest inning of the game, scoring six runs in the bottom of the third, blowing the game wide open with a nine run lead, 11-2.
Jay McDonald, Corbin Palmer and Connor Palmer all crossed the plate in the fourth inning to put San Juan up by 12, 14-2. Delta would get a pair of runs in the top of the fifth, both off Bronco errors, to make the final score 14-4 for San Juan.
Corbin Palmer notched the win for the Broncos. The sophomore south paw went three innings giving up two hits and two runs with three strikeouts and one walk.
Five Broncos had multiple base hits, with Blake, Perkins and Connor Palmer all recording doubles, while Eldredge and Corbin Palmer both picked up triples. Lee had a great day running the bases and finished the game with five steals.
Another strong start against Kirtland Central boosted San Juan to another win. San Juan drew first blood when Eldredge tripled in the first inning, driving in Blake and Lee.
Kirtland got on the board in the top of the second, scoring one run. That was answered by San Juan when Blake tripled in the bottom of the second, driving in Corbin Palmer.
Both teams added one run in the third inning, San Juan’s run came when Eldredge scored from third off a base hit by Perkins.
After holding Kirtland scoreless in the top of the fourth, San Juan gave themselves a little breathing room when Blake, Lee, Eldredge and Su’eSu’e all scored, increasing San Juan’s lead to six, 8-2.
Kirtland rallied in the top of the fifth to the tune of four runs to pull within two, 8-6. San Juan then answered with four runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth, courtesy of runs scored by Johnson, Blake, Lee and Eldredge, for a final score of 12-6.
Perkins and Blake handled the work from the mound for San Juan. The duo gave up 10 hits, struck out three and two walks.
Perkins picked up the win for the Broncos. Eldredge recorded two doubles, while Su’eSu’e and Lee each had one and Blake had a triple. Lee led the Broncos with four RBIs and Su’eSu’e had three.
It was another strong game for San Juan running the bases with two steals by Eldredge and one from Lee and Su’eSu’e.
Against Dove Creek, San Juan found themselves in an early hole, down three heading into the bottom of the first. The Broncos didn’t trail for long though, as they scored three runs to tie the game.
Blake started the scoring for San Juan with a leadoff homerun. Lee and Eldredge also scored in the first to tie the game at 3.
The Broncos exploded for 12 runs over the next two innings, six runs in each the second and third, to take a commanding 15-3 lead.
The Bulldogs scored one more run in the top of the fourth, but San Juan wasn’t quite done dealing out damage from the plate, adding four more runs in the bottom of the fourth, resulting in a 19-4 victory for the Broncos.
Freshman Shaw Nielson earned the win, pitching all four innings, giving up three hits, striking out four and walking one. McDonald, Su’eSu’e and Blake recorded multiple base hits for San Juan. McDonald had a double, Su’eSu’e tripled as did Blake, who also had a homerun and four RBIs.
Opposing teams better start taking notice of Lee as he nabbed another two bases in this game, bringing his total for the tournament to eight steals.
The Broncos next game is a double header at Gunnison on Friday, March 24. The first game begins at 1:30 p.m. with the second game following.
The Lady Bronco softball team got the season underway on March 17 when they hosted the Kirtland Central Broncos. In spite of playing well for most of both games, San Juan was on the wrong side of a 10-0 and an 18-8 score.
In game one, neither team managed to score until late in the game when Kirtland took a 4-0 in the top of the fourth. The visiting Broncos added six runs in the fifth for the win.
Determined not to repeat game one, San Juan came out strong in game 2, racing out to a 5-0 lead.
Kirtland got on the board in the second with one run before San Juan added three to their side and took an 8-1 lead heading into the third inning.
Just as it looked like San Juan was in control, their bats went quiet. Kirtland, on the other hand, went on to score seven over the next four innings, tying the game at 8 heading into the final inning.
With the game tied, Kirtland unleashed a 10-run inning in the seventh and held San Juan scoreless to win 18-8 and sweep the double header.
Errors hurt San Juan in both games, which were more competitive than the final scores indicate.
San Juan’s next game is a double header Tuesday, March 21 in Blanding against Bayfield, COstarting at 3 p.m.
On Friday, March 24, the Broncos travel to Gunnison to take on the Bulldogs beginning at 2 p.m.
Track & Field
The San Juan track teams had their first meet of the year in the Carbon High Invitational in Price. The boys were seventh, and the girls 12th.
Peter Shumway had a great day, placing first in the shot put and discus.
The Koleman Spillman, Grange Simpson, Garrett Chamberlain, and Thomas Hook sprint medley were fourth. Jaxon Torgerson is third in high jump.
Jessica Walker was sixth in 3,200 and eighth in 1,600. Jordyn Moon was sixth in 300 hurdles. Delaney Palmer is fifth in 200 and sixth in 400 meters.
Emma Faqua, Alexis James, Nizhoni Warren and Jessica Walker placed fifth in the medley.