Pipeline to success: Gonzales making impact

Photo by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Dubois County Bombers center fielder Nick Gonzales ran to first base in the first inning of the Bombers’ 16-2 thumping of the Paducah Chiefs on Tuesday evening at League Stadium in Huntingburg. Gonzales is the latest New Mexico State product to join the Dubois County Bombers summer league squad following notable names such as Daniel Johnson and Roman Trujillo. Despite missing the first several games of the season due to the Aggies making a run in the NCAA Tournament, Gonzales has helped the Bombers nearly climb back to the .500 mark and also leads the team in several categories such as batting average and slugging percentage.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Whether it was the wheels on outfielder Daniel Johnson in 2015 or the acrobatic plays made at shortstop by Roman Trujillo in 2017, New Mexico State baseball players have sure left their impact on the Dubois County Bombers.

Even after joining the squad late due to the Aggies making a run to the NCAA Regional Tournament in early June, Nick Gonzales has already began to leave his mark on this year’s Bombers group.

“I think he’s our best player and I think everyone on our team would agree with that,” said manager Andy Lasher following the Bombers 16-2 thumping over Paducah on Tuesday night at League Stadium. “He’s a five-tool guy. He can play shortstop, he can play outfield, he’s a good runner, he’s got good arm strength — he’s a real talent.”

Gonzales’ first game with the Bombers (7-8) was on June 8 against Owensboro and since that date, Dubois County has compiled a 6-2 record after starting the season 1-6.

The Bombers knew what they were getting in Gonzales as his numbers from his freshman year at New Mexico State speak for themselves — he finished the season with a .347 batting average, 67 hits, 36 RBIs and he also finished with a fielding percentage of .957. Gonzales has also earned a plethora of accomplishments during his freshman year with the Aggies including being named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, All-WAC first team and most recently he was named to the Perfect Game/Rawlings Second-Team Freshman All-American team. It’s his third freshman All-American team that he has been honored on.

Gonzales admits that it took him a little time to get used to playing with his new team after joining the group a little late but he’s becoming adjusted to the area thanks to his teammates and his host family, Cheryl and Jim Ranger.

“It’s a different culture playing out here,” said Gonzales, who finished 1-for-3 in Tuesday’s win as he had three RBIs on the night including driving in two courtesy of a triple. “I’ve played West Coast ball my entire life and I had to get adjusted because everyone talks a bit different here but as soon as I got out and started playing, it’s just baseball and making friends was pretty easy.”

Gonzales currently leads the Bombers in batting average (.444), slugging percentage (.630) and is second in hits (12), RBIs (10) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.444) despite only playing in 7 of Dubois County’s 15 games.

While Gonzales has began to settle in as a second baseman at New Mexico State, during his time this summer in Huntingburg he’s already began to see action at a few different places in both the infield and the outfield. While Gonzales has began to shift into more of an outfielder, it wasn’t always that way.

“For me, playing in the outfield always just kind of came natural to me,” Gonzales said. “In high school ball, I started to play in the infield and then once I got to college I wasn’t really sure where I was going to play but then I just kind of squeezed it at second base and that’s where I started playing.”

Gonzales first heard about the Dubois County Bombers at the beginning of last summer right after he first got to college and quickly signed with them a few days later after learning just exactly the team was like.

“I had only been in school for like a week but guys were already signing for summer ball so coach Terry Davis called me in the office and started talking to me about the Dubois County Bombers,” Gonzales said. “He told me about the stadium and stuff and I was like ‘Sounds good to me’. I just wanted to play baseball, I think I was even of the first to sign to come play here.”

Lasher can recall a plethora of good players that have come from New Mexico State that have spent time with the Bombers. Johnson was the first back in 2015 and after dominating during his time in the Ohio Valley League and at New Mexico State, Johnson has worked his way up to the Harrisburg Senators — the AA minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Pitcher Zach Freeman also joined the Bombers in 2015 from New Mexico State.

Matthew Munden and Fabian Reyes were two strong pitchers from the Aggie program who were members of the Bombers pitching staff in 2016 while Trujillo helped to man the Dubois County infield last season alongside Camdon Mercier and former Jasper High School product Craig Shepherd.

While Lasher knows the Bombers still have a long way to go, he has noticed improvements as the season has progressed and the guys are getting closer to climbing back to a .500 record. With a large amount of freshman on the Dubois County roster, Lasher is relying on some of the sophomores and juniors on the team (as well as freshmen such as Gonzales and former Jasper standout and current University of Evansville product Evan Aders who received a lot of playing time as freshmen at their respective college programs) to help spread some wisdom to the guys who are getting their first real taste of collegiate playing experience.

“The majority of these guys are freshmen and they’re still learning how to play college baseball,” Lasher said. “It’s a whole different step up and that’s why I think they can learn some things from these older guys who know what it takes. These young kids are really hungry and they work hard, but they just need to improve on a lot of areas on the field before we see more W’s in the win column.”

Gonzales added, “Things are starting to click. It’s just a group of new guys so we just have to find what’s right and what clicks and what doesn’t.”




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