PREP BASEBALL: Buy in, clutch hitting propels Bruins to playoff berth
With complete “buy in” by the players and a potent offensive lineup, the Bear River baseball team has already clawed out a playoff spot with a week left in the regular season.
“They love the idea that we don’t make excuses, we just make adjustments,” said Bear River head coach Eric Van Patten of his players. “They can take criticism well, they’re coachable and they like the culture of setting goals. These guys set team goals and individual goals and they make themselves accountable for those goals…They are a fully bought in baseball program that loves the culture of competing together, and I love that about them. They are fun to be around.”
Having already wrapped up the third and final playoff spot allotted to the PVL, the Bruins (10-14, 8-5 Pioneer Valley League) are looking to finish strong. They have a pair of league games left against Lindhurst next week, including a road match Monday and a home contest at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
A big reason for the Bruins’ success has been their prowess at the plate, where they bat .316 as a team and score 7.5 runs per game.
Leading the Bear River hitters is senior Nathan Van Patten, who is batting .417 with a team-high three home runs to go with seven doubles, 19 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
“He’s a three-year standout varsity player and he leads our squad as a captain,” said Eric Van Patten, noting that Nathan Van Patten has been tabbed as an Optimist All-Star.
Fellow senior Damian Christen is also having a fantastic season, batting .434 with five doubles and 19 RBIs.
“He is dialed in and is kind of our walkoff king,” said Eric Van Patten. “In our two or three walkoff wins he’s been the guy. Just super pleased with his offensive prowess. He’s been a joy to coach this year and been a great contributor in the middle of our lineup.”
Cole Winters is another Bruin batting over .400 who also has a knack for bringing in runs. The talented junior is hitting .425 with team-highs in doubles (10) and RBIs (34).
“Just a dominating hitter,” said Eric Van Patten. “He’s a hard working corner guy, can play both first and third with excellence. He’s a joy to coach and a thoughtful leader.”
Bear River also has a standout sophomore in Colby Lunsford, who is the team’s primary catcher and leads the team in batting average (.474) and triples (4).
“He’s tougher than a $2 steak,” Eric Van Patten said. “He’s super intelligent when it comes to situational hitting, just advanced for his age, and he’s tough as nails.”
Leading the Bruins pitching staff is Colton Jenkins, a junior hurler who has notched multiple complete game wins this season.
“He is an all around tough-minded athlete,” said Eric Van Patten. “He’s always all in. A positive guy and always has a great approach at the plate, and defensively he’s a multi-faceted guy.”
Bear River has already booked their second straight trip to the postseason, but the Bruins will look to finish strong and possibly land a home playoff game. League leader Colfax (20-6, 12-1) and Marysville (15-7, 11-2) will be the other PVL representatives in the postseason, which opens May 14.
NU SWEEPS RIO LINDA
The Miners topped the Rio Linda Knights, 6-2, on Friday, completing a three-game sweep of their league foe.
The victory concludes the Foothill Valley League season for the Miners (16-11, 9-6 FVL), who finished in second place behind league champ Oakmont.
In Friday’s win, the Miners were led by Zach Erlich with three hits, including a double. Aiden Keros added two hits, one of which was a triple.
Sophomore pitcher Matt Deschaine allowed just one earned run to grab the victory from the bump.
The Miners shutout the Knights, 6-0, on Thursday, getting a huge game from Nick Noll, who hit two home runs and a double.
NU’s Bennett King pitched a complete-game shutout on Thursday, and allowed just two hits along the way.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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