The Mineral County High baseball team was eliminated from the state tournament early over the weekend after taking losses to Indian Springs, 12-8 and Wells 13-1. Their hopes of bringing home a state title were shattered until next year as the Serpents finished out their season with a 21-9 record, but not without leaving a mark. They still claimed the Northeastern Conference title and the Northern Regional championship.
As a team, they put up statistics that will place them in the NIAA record book in four categories: Team triples, runs, pitching strikeouts and stolen bases (second all-time).
The Serpents will now have the chore of replacing five seniors of which represent the strongest Serpent baseball senior class in many years. The first senior, LJ Donaldson, who was a newcomer to the Serpent lineup this year, was a strong addition. As a pitcher and the hardest throwing arm in the division, he had three wins, struck out 48 batters and threw a complete game win to clinch his team’s entry to the state tournament. As a hitter, he hit .371 with nine doubles and three triples for the season, but shined during the post-season, posting a .444 batting average, driving in eight runs with three doubles and two triples. He was selected First Team All-Conference as a shortstop.
Isaiah Crowl, who is a three-year letterman for the Serpents, will also be leaving. Crowl, who threw a no-hitter as a freshman, was the premier pitcher for the Serpents in his freshman and sophomore years. He put up 98 strikeouts (two shy of NIAA record book listing), but succumbed to injury in his junior and senior seasons. Though unable to pitch in his final season, he put his bat to work. Crowl hit .466 on the year, scored 23 runs and drove in 34 runs with 42 hits. In conference play he led the team with a .571 batting average. He was selected First Team All-Conference as a first baseman and received the coveted “Mr. Clutch” award by his teammates.
Spencer Benjamin, another three-year letterman, has definitely left his mark. He broke the NIAA single season record for hit by pitches with 25, and is number two all-time for his school with 43 in a career. He hit .435 with 25 RBIs, 27 hits, 29 runs scored, 9 doubles and 14 stolen bases. He will also qualify for the NIAA record book with a career batting average of .435. He was selected First Team All-Conference as a catcher and was the recipient of the Don Baylor Award from his coaches.
Tanner Owens, and yet another three-year letterman for the Serpents, is another record breaker from this senior class. He set a new NIAA career stolen base record with 120, placed himself second on the NIAA season stolen base list, broke the school record for stolen bases in both categories and according to Maxpreps nationwide stat listings for prep sports, he was second in the nation in 2016 with 66 stolen bases. He hit .434, with 40 hits and 48 runs (a new school record). As a pitcher, he has three wins (most notably, the regional championship game), and 50 strikeouts. His 2016 performance landed him in the school record book in 10 categories and in the NIAA record book in five. He was selected First Team All-Conference and received the “Mr. Hustle” award by his teammates.
Daniel Owens, the Serpents only four-year letterman, has not only had an impressive season with MCHS, but an impressive career. As a pitcher, he had a 7-1 record, struck out 73 batters, and maintained a 2.44 ERA this year. As a batter, he was even more impressive. He hit .505 with 39 RBIs, 45 hits, 46 runs scored, eight doubles, four triples and 33 stolen bases. In post-season play, he hit .625 with 10 hits in five games. He holds the highest career batting average for a four-year player at MCHS with a .413 clip. His 2016 season will leave him listed in the school record book in 21 categories and in the NIAA record book in 13 categories. He was selected as the Northeastern Division IV All-Conference Most Valuable Player, and selected MVP once again by his teammates.
Other noteworthy performances in post-season play were by Taylen Wachsmuth, who hit .600 with nine hits and two doubles. Brandon West also had a nice playoff run, hitting .400 with a double, two triples and a home run. Freshman Tony Dominguez had a fine showing in the post-season, racking up five hits and driving in three runs. He also stole two bases to run his season total to 21, a new Mineral County record as a freshman.
Remaining juniors Andre Davis and Eddie Dunnett, along with seven solid freshmen from this season will look to defend their conference title next year with fresh young blood looking to fill those five vacant spots in the lineup.