LOST SEASON: Bear River baseball team had big goals for the 2020 season | TheUnion.com
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LOST SEASON: Bear River baseball team had big goals for the 2020 season

Loaded with a large cast of returners from last season’s run to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game, Bear River’s baseball team had its sights set on making another deep postseason run and earning another shot at the Section banner. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down organized sports at all levels, and with that any chance of a repeat run the Bruins may have had.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

The 2020 batch of baseball Bruins are a gritty and determined bunch.

Loaded with a large cast of returners from last season’s run to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game, Bear River’s baseball team had its sights set on making another deep postseason run and earning another shot at the Section banner.

“We were going to be a playoff team. Playoffs was not negotiable, it was a certain,” said Bear River head coach Eric Van Patten. “We were going to be hitting the ball better this year, we were going to be pitching with more dominance this year and we had a core of seniors willing to take the team as far as they could.”

They, along with every other prep team in the state, never got the opportunity. The Bruins only got eight games into the season before it was shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ending the team’s hopes of chasing down the school’s first section title in baseball. The Bruins started the season off a little rocky with just two wins through seven non-league games, but were coming off a 5-3 victory over Center in their Pioneer Valley League opener when the season was halted.

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“We practically had the same team from the year before,” said senior pitcher and infielder Colton Jenkins. “We had great chemistry with each other. I think we would have gone to the section championship.”

Jenkins is one of six seniors on the team along with pitcher Caleb Hurst, infielder Cole Winters, outfielder Reid Zoldan, outfielder Justin Powell and outfielder Taylor Chynoweth.

SENIOR LEADERS

Winters, who was an All-PVL selection a season ago, was off to a hot start to the season, going 10-for-25 from the plate with three doubles and a team-high eight RBIs.

“He earned the title of team captain,” said Van Patten. “Power-bat hitter and sound baseball player. A quiet but strong leader, and his team respected him.”

Jenkins, also an All-PVL selection a season ago, wore many hats for the Bruins. In addition to being strong at the plate with six hits, two doubles and seven runs scored in eight games played, he was a standout on the mound and in the field.

“If I could describe Colton in a word, it’d be ‘versatile,’” said Van Patten. “He’s an athlete inside and out. His versatility on the mound to catching to playing up the middle, he demonstrated strength at every position we placed him in. In addition, he brought maturity to the lineup, maturity to our club. He brought a fight, a vitality to not give up.”

Zoldan, who nabbed All-PVL honorable mention honors a season ago, was batting .391 with nine hits and four RBIs when the season was called.

“Reid had come along with a lot of strength and ownership in the outfield,” said Van Patten. “He improved dramatically from his junior to senior season. He had gotten stronger, his bat was improving and he was starting to find himself in the middle of our lineup. He locked down center field.”

Hurst, who earned a spot on the football All-PVL team as an offensive lineman in the fall, was well on his way to becoming a force on the mound.

“I was looking forward to him gaining dominance on the mound as a starting pitcher,” said Van Patten. “He was giving us great starts and giving us opportunities to win games. He was going to be a promising left-handed pitcher.”

Chynoweth was an up and coming member of the squad and was emerging as an asset in the outfield.

“He was going to get considerable starting time in right or left field,” said Van Patten. “His bat had improved since last season and his ceiling had gotten higher.”

Powell, a All-PVL basketball selection in the winter, was a first year member of the Bruins baseball team, but was poised to be an impact player off the bench, said Van Patten.

For Hurst, he said the team really came together toward the end of last season and he was looking forward to building on that.

“We created a brotherhood as teammates and it really helped us grow as a team,” said Hurst, noting he relished the role of underdog. “We’re a scrappy little school. A bunch of kids from Grass Valley. We’re always the underdogs, but we would come out and dominate and surprise everybody.”

MOVING FORWARD

Jenkins said the lessons he learned across his athletic career at Bear River are ones he will carry with him for years to come.

“No matter how tough things get, you can push through them,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ve had ups and downs in all my sports. I’ve been on three Section contending teams through my years, been on multiple playoff teams and that’s the biggest thing for us.”

Hurst, Winters and Jenkins are all looking into options to play in college.

“All three of those guys are looking at next level ball,” said Van Patten, who noted he’s been reaching out to schools on the players’ behalf.

In addition to their senior leaders, the Bruins roster also included Colby Lunsford, Branden Koppes, Nick Baltz, Kenny Baltz, Devin Ortiz, Brennan Schad and Zach Williams.

“This team is a reflection of what I hope Bruins baseball will continue to look like,” said Van Patten. “It possessed the values a high school would look for in its sports teams: integrity, character, grit, passion, and I think this team had all of that chemistry in place.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.


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