Bronco baseball team splits first two games of 2A state tourney, faces a challenging road back to title game

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The fifth-ranked San Juan Broncos opened the 2023 2A Utah State Baseball Tournament in Beaver this past weekend with a 12-0 victory over local rival Monticello, then suffered a 10-3 loss to #4 host Beavers in the second round.
The loss dropped the Broncos into the one-loss bracket where they’ll spend the remainder of the tournament. They can still win the state championship, they’ll just have to win seven straight games to do it.
It’s a tough row to hoe but it’s possible, and that’s the beauty of a true double-elimination state tournament.
In their first-round matchup with the Buckaroos San Juan opened the scoring with a two-run first inning then poured on seven more in the second. They closed out the game with a one-run third inning and a two-run fourth.
All but one of the Broncos’ runs came in the form of RBIs. Cooper Palmer and Jerzy Nieves drove in three apiece. Parker Snyder got two ribbies. And Jake Ivins, Branten Bethea, and Garrett Young got one apiece.
Ivins had the strongest game at the plate, going 3 for 3 and scoring a couple runs for San Juan. Snyder was 2 for 4. Collin Baker and Ian Johnson were both 1 for 2. Palmer and Bethea were both 1 of 3 with a double apiece.
Johnson, Baker, and Jaiten Knight all combined to pitch seven innings of two-hit baseball, striking out seven Buckaroos and walking four.
Against Beaver in the second round as San Juan Head Coach Jens Nielson put it, “The game can be summed up with the stat line. We both had eight hits. Our hits were louder but we struck out 14 times to their one.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third when Beaver cracked it open with three runs. San Juan was unable to answer in the top of the fourth and the Beavers added a run in the bottom of the inning to lead 4-0.
The Broncos cut the deficit in half with a two-run top of the fifth, but Beaver answered with one in the bottom half. The Beavers held San Juan scoreless again in the top of the sixth then put the game out of reach with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the inning.
The Broncos mustered one more run in the top of the seventh, but they were never able to threaten in the loss. “Beaver put the ball in play, and that’s how they beat us,” reasoned Coach Nielson.
“If we put the ball in play it’s a completely different ballgame. We are not worried. We have a good path and we have the guys to win the championship,” he stated.
San Juan hosted the #11 team entering the tournament, North Sevier, in the one-loss second round on Tuesday, May 9, too late for the San Juan Record print deadline.
The Broncos had beaten the Braves twice this season before their meeting on Tuesday. If San Juan beat them for a third time, they’ll head to BYU for the remainder of the tournament Thursday through Saturday, May 11-13.
Nielson is optimistic about his team’s chances to battle back to a 2A state championship. “We are confident but humble about our situation,” he said. “Watch for these boys to do something special.”

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