Coal Ridge baseball player and coach awarded for season contributions
After a record-breaking season that saw Coal Ridge High School post their best record in school history, head coach Dan Larsen and sophomore first basemen/pitcher Ben Simons were named the Western Slope League Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, respectively.
Following a 25-0 regular season that saw the Titans outscore opponents by a margin of 313-59 during the course of their undefeated streak, which resulted in the recognition of seven Coal Ridge players on the all-conference team, Larsen said his award is far more than an individual accolade.
“It’s not an individual award,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this position and receiving this award if it weren’t for the talented group of guys that I have had the privilege to coach this year.”
Falling in the state playoffs to Montezuma-Cortez and University high schools, Coal Ridge’s hopes to bring home the school’s first state championship fell short in the state’s double-elimination tournament.
Carrying a young team, which will return all — but senior Brandon Short — to next year’s roster, Simons said the recognition received this year means a lot, but not all for the incoming junior.
“It’s a great feeling to be honored, and I’m extremely grateful to be named player of the year, but this isn’t why I play the game,” he said. “I’m excited for this group of guys to take the field next year, and I know our sights will be set on winning a state championship.”
A team that featured nine underclassmen (five of who earned all-conference awards), Larsen knows next year’s team has every right to be shooting for the stars.
“We’re young and we’re talented,” Larsen said. “Every school’s goal in this state is to win a championship. If these guys continue to work and put in the effort they did this season, we know we have the discipline to make it to the top next season.”
Also receiving all-conference recognition, incoming senior Alexis Serna said Larsen and Simons’ recognition is no fluke.
“Ben worked his tail off this season, and Coach Larsen’s confidence in the team rubbed off in a way that made us feel that we could achieve anything,” Serna said. “I don’t think we would have been able to do what we did this year without the leadership that Ben and coach (Larsen) brought to the table this year.”
Leading the Western Slope League in earned runs against (ERA) throughout the course of the season, Larsen said Simons’ achievement will only be the first of what should be many more to come.
“His teammates love playing behind him,” Larsen said “He would never call himself a leader, but he carries himself in a way that motivates others to want to become better baseball players. Ben has a bright future ahead of him in this game, and he will have the opportunity to develop into an even better player than he already is these next few years.”
While the official Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) baseball season will linger in the minds of both players and coaches until next spring, Larsen said the team will begin both summer ball and offseason workouts in the coming weeks.
The CHSAA all-state baseball teams have yet to be announced.
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