By Bruce Auld News Review Staff Writer– Burroughs baseball was relatively late in the athletic line-up, debuting in 1951. Fifty years after that first season, the 2001 team was the most successful, playing for the state championship in Dodger Stadium. Many Burros have elevated their play at the collegiate and professional levels. JD Martin (BHS 2001) is the only Burro to play in the majors, pitching for the Washington Nationals.
2022 Burroughs graduate Conner Batzer was the Burroughs baseball MVP and the Mojave River League (MRL) Player of the Year. Conner was a four-year varsity baseball player who received a US Navy Athlete of the Year award. Conner led the MRL in strikeouts with 92 and batted .325. Conner committed to continue his education and play baseball at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), the Coyotes or “Yotes.” The Yote’s appearance in the 2023 NCAA DII championship series is the first in school history.
Conner’s parents, Arturo and Jodie Batzer, journeyed across the country to Cary, North Carolina, to root for Conner and the Yotes. Casey’s Restaurant provided a one-inning delayed video of all the games, including Conner’s winning effort against Millersville. Casey Groves is the only Burro to get an extra-base hit in Dodger Stadium, an off-the-wall double on June 2, 2001.
What is likely rare if not unique in Burroughs baseball history is that Conner, in his freshman year and the youngest player on his team, not only played three games in the 2023 DII baseball championship, Conner was the winning relief pitcher in CSUSB’s come from behind 6-5 win over number-one seeded Millersville, Pennsylvania, the Marauders. Conner’s pitching and Yote’s defense gave up just one hit and one run in two pressure-packed innings. Then the Yotes bats lit up, scoring three runs and winning 6-5. “Being the only Burro to make the NCAA DII semi-finals is very cool to me. It is the greatest baseball experience I’ve ever had!” (Conner Batzer)
In the first game, the Yotes fell to Rollins College of Winter Park, Florida, in the double-elimination series. After Conner’s win over Millersville, the Yote’s path to the championship game required two wins against Rollins College. The Yotes faced Rollins again on June 8. The Yotes, known for their hot bats, defeated Rollins 16-11. With each team having one win, the tie-breaker was played on June 9. Joining Ann Lusher and the boys (including Mike Farris) at Casey’s, we watched the lead alternate several times. Rollins prevailed 10-8 over the Yotes. Ultimately, Rollins lost to the 2023 NCAA DII champions, Angelo State, 6-5. This is the Rams’ first national championship. Angelo State is located in San Angelo, Texas.
Conner’s Baseball journey began in Ridgecrest at age six, and by age eight, he began all-star level play. In eighth grade, Conner began his affiliation with the SoCal Bombers, with whom he played throughout his high school years, along with playing for Burroughs. Conner chose CSU San Bernardino based on his recruitment trips with Head Coach Mike Nadeau and the “family culture” Coach Nadeau created. Obviously, Conner made a great choice. As an accounting major with an emphasis in finance, Conner posted a 3-1 pitching record, pitching 34 innings with twenty-six strikeouts as a freshman. Although his fastball is shy of 90 mph, he favors his curveball as his best pitch. More importantly, Conner is adept at mixing his pitches, keeping batters off balance. Conner’s plan for off-season competition is to play with the Swift Current 57’s, a well-established summer collegiate team. (Interview with Conner Batzer)
“My wife and I had a magical experience in the beautiful town of Cary, North Carolina, where we watched our son Conner Batzer and his team from Cal State San Bernardino compete in the DII College World Series. There may not have been a more beautiful backdrop to witness these boys chasing their dream of becoming national champions. Some of those games were quite stressful, as it took until the ninth inning to secure a victory. However, overall, it was a fantastic experience. Watching Conner pitch in high-leverage situations, where the game was on the line, was both nerve-racking and rewarding. He has worked hard to get to this point in his athletic career. My wife was sitting on the edge of her seat, anxious, as she watched Conner enter the ninth inning and make crucial outs for his team. This is an experience that my wife and I will never forget. It is definitely a moment I don’t think Conner will forget, as he got the last out in a massive game to send CSUSB to the semifinals.” (Arturo Batzer)
For the 2024 DII baseball season, Conner will be joined by Kailer Bachman, who will compete as a freshman with Arkansas Tech, and Kaden Martin, who will compete as a senior with Southern Colorado University.
A self-proclaimed life-long learner, Conner told me his WHIP was 1.47, and I had no idea what a WHIP of 1.47 represents. In baseball statistics, a quick Google search revealed that walks plus hits per inning pitched is a sabermetric measurement of the number of baserunners allowed per inning pitched. WHIP is calculated by adding the number of walks and hits allowed and dividing this sum by the number of innings pitched. 1.00 is considered a Cy Young WHIP. (Wikipedia)
I am thinking of an annual house guest of Jane and Ed Brooks in Ridgecrest, the late “Perfect Yankee” Don Larson, who pitched the only perfect game in World Series history and had a single game WHIP of 0.00! Ridgecrest should be proud of Conner’s 1.47 WHIP and his come-from-behind win over the number one tournament seed, Millersville—job well done. Conner has added value to future Burroughs diplomas.