Broncos baseball win three, sweep San Juan/Moab Baseball Round Robin

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
While everyone else in the San Juan School District was enjoying Spring Break 2022, the San Juan High School baseball team was prepping for a busy weekend on the ball diamond.
The Broncos played three games on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19 as part of the San Juan/Moab Round Robin, winning all three and improving to 5-3 on the season.
On Friday San Juan played on their own ball diamond in the first game of the event, beating Shiprock 10-5.
The Chieftains opened the scoring and led 2-0 in the second inning before the Broncos blew the game open with nine unanswered runs in their half of the second, third, and fourth frames.
Shiprock managed to answer with three runs in the top of the fifth, but San Juan scored one to answer, then held the Chieftains scoreless in the sixth to close out the victory.
The Broncos got the bats working in a major way to open the weekend, slugging 12 hits in 27 at-bats for a .444 average. All ten runs counted as RBIs.
Maddax Lee led the way with a three-hit effort in as many at-bats and two RBIs. He also scored three runs in the win. Freshmen Branten Bethea and Jake Ivins were both 2-for-4 on the day with two ribbies apiece.
Ian Johnson got two hits in four at-bats, Garett Young and Talon Mendoza were both 1-for-3, and Collin Baker was 1-for-2. Mendoza drove in two runs in the win with Johnson and Baker getting one RBI apiece.
Jace Palmer got the win on the mound, allowing five runs on just four hits in 4.1 innings pitched. Mendoza pitched well in 1.2 innings of relief, allowing no runs. Both Bronco hurlers struck out four Shiprock batters apiece.
On Saturday, March 19 the tournament moved exclusively to Moab where San Juan opened the day against the Ben Lomond Scots. For the first three innings, it looked like a fairly “normal” baseball game.
But, down 3-1 heading into the fourth, the Broncos exploded for 16 runs in the next two innings to crush Ben Lomond 17-4.
Young had the best average in the win, going 2-for-3 on the day with one RBI. But Baker drove four Broncos across the plate and was 2-of-4 in the win.
Palmer and Maddax Lee added a couple RBIs apiece and Baker struck for San Juan’s first home run of the young season. San Juan stole eight bases in the win – three apiece for Young and Jerzy Nieves and two for Brody Bilbao.
Junior Jerzy Nieves got the win in a complete game, striking out seven Ben Lomond batters and allowing just four runs on five hits over five innings of work.
After putting back-to-back wins together for the second time this season, San Juan was looking for their first three-game win streak of the year when they closed out the weekend against their rivals and the host Grand County Red Devils.
Grand committed a number of errors in the early innings, allowing the Broncos to build a 6-0 lead after three and a half.
That was all the offense San Juan could muster, and the Red Devils rallied for five runs in the final three innings. But the Bronco pitching and defense came through to cut the rally short and close out an exciting 6-5 victory.
San Juan collected just three hits in the win with Bethea driving in a team-high two runs. Palmer and Mendoza had one RBI apiece. Young once again stole three bases for the Broncos.
Ian Johnson got the win, fanning five Grand batters and allowing three runs on three hits in five innings pitched. Jake Ivins came on in relief in the sixth, striking out one and allowing two runs on two hits.
After his team returned home, third-year head coach Jens Nielson said he and his fellow coaches have “seen some great things from these boys the last few weeks."
He explained that the weekend round-robin was a “total team effort” with several freshmen stepping in and doing a fantastic job while the team was missing some regular starters.
“We had a solid weekend of baseball,” Nielson continued. “Our players played with energy and confidence. This is a good group of boys who work hard, have the right mentality, and are determined to win.”
In the March 30 issue of the San Juan Record we’ll feature a full interview with Coach Nielson as he takes a look at his players, goals, and expectations for the season.
In the meantime, the Broncos are right back in action this week. They open 2A East Region play with a doubleheader against the North Summit Braves on the SJHS ball diamond Wednesday, March 23.

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