Things are looking bright for Mine’s baseball as they head into their last two series of the season: they have won 12 of their last 13 games and they have secured a spot in the RMAC tournament.
The start of their recent run was a series sweep against New Mexico Highlands University. Mines won the games 10-7, 3-2, 10-7, and 13-7 in an E-Days home series where freshman Jace Selsor and junior Connor Lambert each had a home run, and junior Logan Smith snuck in two. Another stand-out for the weekend was senior A.J. Valerio who held NMHU at zero hits for the first four innings of game two, which bumped up his season score to 4-0.
The next weekend was a bumpy ride for the Orediggers. Despite being outhit 11-18, Mines won the game 9-7 through a combination of impressive pitching from junior Tyler Thomas, who held Adam’s State to only four runs in five innings, and doubles across the team.
The next day, they rallied from a 6 run deficit in the first 4 innings to finish the game 11-7. Game three was admittedly less exciting: Adam State may have scored the first point, but the Orediggers scored the next ten, resulting in a final score of 10-1.
The final game of the series was a high-scoring battle where the teams found themselves tied 12-12 in the seventh inning. Mine’s scored three in the eighth and another two in the ninth, and, with the help of relief pitcher sophomore Matt Martin, held the Grizzlies to zero runs. The game ended 17-12, which is a season high for Mines.
After this series, Smith was named RMAC Baseball Player of the Week and NCBWA South Central Player of the Week. He batted .526 over the weekend and had an on base percentage of .591.
The next weekend, Mines played a mere two games against CSU Pueblo. The teams, who have been neck-and-neck for second place in the RMAC all season, split the series. Mines took the first game 8-7 but fell short in the second and lost 3-5. However, in game one senior Nate Olinger put down his 66th career double, which earned him a spot in the RMAC record books.
The Orediggers have had six games cancelled this season due to weather. That is not the only challenge that comes with playing a spring sport, though. It can be especially tough to stay focused on a sport and keep up academics.
That has not been a problem, though, for the ten Orediggers who earned All Academic Honors this season. Olinger may have been the only one to achieve RMAC All-Academic First-Team (it is his third year receiving this award), but nine other players were placed on the RMAC Academic Honor Roll. “Coach Goodale is adamant that we stay up to date, or even ahead of our schoolwork while we are not playing or practicing,” Martin explained.
The team’s next series was against Metro State University. Earlier this season, Mines split their home series. This time they took the whole thing. In game one, the Orediggers managed to get at least one run in every inning except the second. Olinger, freshman Joe Pop, and senior Jack Bevan all scored home runs, and despite a late game rally from Metro, the Orediggers won 15-10.
Game two was less consistent. In the bottom of the third, Mines was down 6-1 with two outs when junior Cody Marvel made it to first after a Metro error. With the help of Selsor, Pop, and Bevan, Mines put down five in the third.
Unfortunately, Mines did not score again until the bottom of the seventh, when Olinger hit a home-run and brought two other Orediggers with him. Then, in the bottom of the tenth inning, down by one with two outs on the board, Bevan batted a two-RBI double. Game three was back and forth, but the Orediggers managed to win 8-5.
While it is easy to look at the statistics and focus on the players with the best batting averages or the most innings pitched, it is important to recognize every win as a team effort. Relief pitchers like juniors Clark Martin and Nathan Smythe have cinched several games for Mines, and pinch hitters like John Howard can kick start the score.
“I would say that the team mentality has contributed a lot to our success this season,” said Martin. “Everybody shows up, knows what their job is for every game, and the atmosphere in the dugout is to do anything possible to help the team win.”
Looking forward, the Orediggers have a tough senior weekend against RMAC leaders Colorado Mesa. Then they will head to the RMAC tournament. If they do well there, they could head to the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time in program history, and it looks promising. The first NCAA regional rankings placed them in fifth, and the top six teams will compete in the tournament.
You can catch the Orediggers this weekend at Jim Darden Field against Colorado Mesa.
Above: Senior Christian Rooney pitches at Jim Darden Field. The Orediggers are 19-6 in conference play. Photo by Keenan Barker.