Robertson, Williams and coach Hanks win RMAC awards
Colorado Mesa baseball coach Chris Hanks eased Nate Robertson into the college level last year, but Hanks couldn’t hold him back this season.
Robertson blossomed into the Mavericks’ everyday shortstop, and everyone noticed.
The sophomore from Montrose was chosen the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference player of the year Wednesday. Senior pitcher Matt Williams is the RMAC pitcher of the year, and Hanks is the RMAC coach of the year.
“Without this team, there’s no way I can be doing the things I’m doing,” Robertson said. “The biggest thing is coaching. I’ve had some excellent coaching.”
The unanimous first-team all-conference pick and All-Defensive Team selection is fifth in the RMAC in batting average (.404) and second in stolen bases (20). He has 134 assists and a fielding percentage of .958. He started 47 of Mesa’s 48 games at shortstop this season after playing 24 games last year.
“I’m not so sure he couldn’t do similar things last year as a freshman,” Hanks said. “We really didn’t give him that opportunity. We, more or less, wouldn’t let that happen with him being a freshman.”
Hanks couldn’t do the same this year, even though he had senior Braden Box, a returning All-American, back at shortstop.
“We couldn’t keep (Robertson) on the bench,” Hanks said. “The thing that made all this possible was the fact that Braden Box is as good of a team guy as you’re ever going to have. Braden has played some third for us, some short, some second. That’s a guy I would give the credit to, Braden Box. As a returning second-team All-American shortstop, he’d have every reason to come to my office and say, ‘What the heck?’ Braden just wants to be a on good team, a winning team.”
Box didn’t mind. He was accustomed to switching positions for the good of the team before.
“When I came in, I wasn’t shortstop,” Box said. “Last year, they happened to need me at shortstop. I played well enough to stay in there. (Robertson is) more of a true shortstop. That’s all he’s ever played, and I played all the other positions, so it was easier to move me around.”
Box played second base in high school until his senior year, when the shortstop was injured and Box filled in the rest of the year. He played center field at Tacoma (Wash.) Community College for one year before coming to Mesa. He’s played shortstop, second base and some third base in his three years for the Mavericks.
“I’ve been that middle infielder, wherever-you-need-me guy,” Box said. “After enough repetitions, it becomes second nature.”
Hanks said Robertson is a lot like a former Mavs’ All-American shortstop from Olathe in Landon Wareham (2000-03), who coached Robertson at Montrose High School.
“Landon was the same type of kid,” Hanks said. “He was the first one there to get his ground balls, hitting and enjoy every minute of it. If he mishandled the ball, he’d start over with one. A drill we do in practice with all the infielders is they have to catch 12 ground balls successfully before they can move on to anything else. We have that drill because more or less that’s what Landon Wareham did as a player here on his own.
“I think the transition for Nate from that high school program to ours was relatively easy.”
Williams also credited his teammates for his award.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to get an award like that,” Williams said. “Baseball is a team sport. Not to downplay the award, but our biggest importance is winning regionals and going to the World Series and winning that.
“You have to have trust in the team. I trust and love every single one of them.”
The senior right-hander (7-1) is in the top five in the RMAC in three pitching categories: tied for third with seven wins: fifth with 69 strikeouts: and second with a 2.51 ERA.
“Matt could’ve had more complete games, but we wanted to develop guys out of the bullpen,” Hanks said. “That honor is well-deserved and well-earned. The thing about Matt that I really respect about him is his tenacious, competitive desire and his desire to win. I don’t question his desire to win ever. He wants us to win bad whether he’s pitching or not. He wants to win. Guys that want to win that bad or practice as much as Nate tend to be good.”
Hanks’s coach of the year award is the sixth time in his 15 seasons he has received the honor. For the second consecutive year, it was a unanimous decision. The Mavericks won the RMAC regular-season championship for the ninth time under Hanks.
Seven Colorado Mesa baseball players made the All-RMAC first team. Junior relief pitcher Cody Lahman, senior catcher Erik Kozel, Box, sophomore infielder Kevin Mitchell and junior outfielder Garrett Carpenter joined Robertson and Williams as first-teamers.
Nolan Snell, Justin Rosales, Jake Kluge and Mitch Corwin made the All-RMAC second team.
Kozel, Mitchell, Robertson and Carpenter were selected to the All-Defensive Team (Gold Glove).
Region Poll: Texas A&M-Kingsville remained No. 1 in the NCAA South Central Region poll released Wednesday. The Javelinas (38-15) won the Lone Star Conference tournament title earlier this week and don’t play until the regional tournament May 16-19.
Texas A&M-Kingsville’s vice president of athletics, Scott Gines, told The Daily Sentinel on Wednesday the Javelinas applied to host the regional. Colorado Mesa (41-7) is second in the regional poll, and St. Mary’s (Texas) is third.