Learning from all results spells success for Legion seniors
     2012-07-16      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen Gering
Platte Valley Companies center fielder Nate Marquez rounds to third base on his way home. Marquez is one of the standouts in a core group of 10 seniors on the Legion team this year. Tuesday night was the teams’ final home game of the regular season.
 
For the past several years, the members of the Class of 2012 at Gering High School have treated themselves and community supporters with many athletic successes, all based on each team having been blessed with teams that have solid cores.

For the Platte Valley Companies Post 36 Senior American Legion baseball team, success has been the norm in the summer months. The Senior 36ers have made Class B state tournament for two straight years, and they have been to state three consecutive summers when counting their qualification as Juniors in 2009.

The PVC Seniors have won eight of their last 10 games but are at an unusually tight overall record of 21-18.
The Senior 36ers have played a little sporadic down the stretch, although they are on an 8-2 run after having lost seven of eight. But those two losses were in their last three games, leaving the PVC players looking for gut checks heading into the final five regular-season games before Class B, Area 7 action begins at Oregon Trail Park on Friday, July 20.

After taking a 12-5 loss Tuesday to Chadron in their final regular-season home game, PVC’s first four hitters all turned their attention back to the success they have achieved – and hopefully can continue for a few more weeks – based on a tight-knit group of 10 young men who consider themselves family.

As a team offensively, Gering PVC is hitting an impressive .319 for the season with an on-base percentage of .430 and slugging percentage of .463.
On the mound, Senior 36er pitchers have combined over 248-1/3 innings to strike out 218 batters and allow just 97 walks, with a team earned run average of 4.23 and a walks/hits per inning ratio of 1.77.

It is numbers that have led to Nate Marquez, Grant Rimington and Zach Smith to all continue their baseball careers by signing letters of intent to play at Western Nebraska Community College.
But none of those players or Danny O’Boyle, who instead will follow his brother Patrick to Chadron State College for football, look to individual successes as the key to their team’s results.

“I am honored to play with these guys,” said Smith, whose .421 batting average leads the Senior 36ers after he flirted with the .500 level earlier in the season. He also leads PVC in runs batted in with 45, doubles with 16 and triples with five.
“We have played together since our Cal Ripken days, I have a lot of memories with them the last couple of years and it has been fun being around such a great group of guys.”

Smith holds down third base when he is not Gering’s leading pitcher. In 46 innings pitched, he has compiled a 5-2 record – sharing wins with fellow senior team member Colin Chatterton (5-1) – with a 2.59 ERA and a team-best 54 strikeouts.
“It’s nice because we know what each other’s strengths are, and we know what we all need to work on,” said Rimington, the only member of the Senior 36ers who has appeared in all 39 of PVC’s games thus far.

And Rimington has the most plate appearances (158), at-bats (130), total base hits (54) and singles (40) as a results. His 37 RBI trail only Smith.
On the mound, Rimington has a 4-4 record with a team-leading 47-2/3 innings pitched, a starters’ low earned run average of 2.50 and a second-best 53 strikeouts.

“Everyone knows their jobs and we play for the team like we need to," added Rimington, who has two primary roles, middle infielder – at shortstop his more natural position, when O’Boyle is pitching, and mostly at second base – and then as the Seniors’ No. 2 pitcher.
Rimington trails only Marquez in on-base percentage at .492 and Smith in batting average at .415 and runs scored with 42.
“It feels like I have been playing with these guys my whole life,” said Nate Marquez, the Senior 36ers’ leadoff hitter who on Tuesday had two more hits and two runs to add to his team-leading .500 on-base percentage and 47 runs scored. “You couldn’t ask for it to be anything better.”

O’Boyle, who said he had pondered the idea of staying with baseball, has posted fourth-place team figures in batting average at .347, hits with 33 and RBI with 20. He also has a third-place total of 31 runs scored.

“I don’t like to think about it; there are a lot of days I wish I was still going to play baseball,” said O’Boyle, who appeared in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl in early June. “But it’s like Grant said, everybody plays their roles so well together, and that comes from them playing since they were 8 and then I have been with them since I was 10. We are always here for each other and that is great.”
Post 36 will officially honor the senior players after their first tournament game next Friday. But for one afternoon, the seemingly inseparable group of 10 took the field one last time – and as the way they all like it, as a team.

Jones used all 10 senior members of the upper-division Legion team in Tuesday’s starting lineup, leading off with the standard batting order of Marquez, Rimington, O’Boyle, Smith, catcher Josh Burgener and first baseman Chatterton. Jones then had Bryce Burkhardt in right field, Reggie Reyes at second base and Ethan McDaniel as the designated hitter for starting pitcher Seth Holthus.

“I started seeing these guys playing together in Little League and have been coaching them off and on the past six years,” said Jones, who led the group as Juniors to state in 2009. “It has been special for them to keep that core group of guys together. They know how to pick each other up, and that is of the benefits of playing together so long is that the know how to drive each other and which buttons they can push.”

With just a week left in the regular season, and the area tournament on their home field starting late next week, the Senior 36ers find themselves challenged in their quest to make a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance.

“We have so much faith on the team and in Coach Jones that we will bounce back,” added Marquez, who also has the Seniors’ third-leading batting average at .391 and hit total with 43.
And the coach agrees.
“We are hoping that they position themselves to make another run,” Jones said, “especially these guys, because they deserve it.”

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