Matt Ortiz is the new head baseball coach at Spanish Springs.
Oritiz, 38, takes over for Ben Hofmann, who took the Cougars to the DI North semifinals this spring.
“(I’m) incredibly excited,” Oritiz said on the phone after getting hired Thursday afternoon. “Ever since Ben resigned, I’ve been really excited for the opportunity to throw my name in the ring. It’s a great program with great tradition and I’m just looking forward to expanding on that tradition.”
Ortiz was an in-house hire by Athletic Director Art Anderson. Ortiz is finishing his fifth year teaching history at Spanish Springs and has been an assistant for the Cougars since 2013. He was also an assistant at Spanish Springs from 2008-10.
He a football assistant as well, in the 2007-2013 seasons.
“I went back to baseball because I missed it. When I was hired back to assist, I knew Ben had ideas of moving out of state,” Ortiz said. “He was kind of talking to me about the position and things I needed to learn if I was interested in taking over the position. That’s kind of been the goal the last three years.”
Ortiz takes over a team that was in the DI North driver’s seat midway through the spring, but tailed late and finished fifth. The Cougars (21-14) lost their DI North tournament opener before rattling off three-straight elimination game victories.
The Cougs were one win shy of their first state berth since 2010, and just the third in program history.
“We want to play obviously an aggressive style of baseball,” Ortiz said. “We got to be good defensively. That’s No. 1. And pitching. But also maintaining the quality baseball players that are in our valley … I feel like we’ve lost quite a bit of athletes to other schools. Whether it’s not attractive enough for them, or not, I just want to make it more attractive so they want to stay in the valley.”
Ortiz has a sparkling resume as a player. He caught for the Wolf Pack for three seasons (1998-2000) for legendary Nevada coach Gary Powers. The last two years he was part of a Wolf Pack team that advanced to the NCAA tournament. His junior year, the Pack was a win over host Stanford away from advancing the Super Regionals.
His name is still littered throughout the Nevada record books. He is fourth in career RBIs (208), seventh in home runs (33), eighth in doubles (44), eighth in hits (233), tied for eighth in runs (153) and 10th in at bats (648).
“I would like to think I was a big part of our success but we had some tremendous players,” Ortiz said. “The players we had on that team were spectacular, big leaguers.”
The list of former teammates includes Joe Inglett, Ryan Church, Lyle Overbay, Chad Qualls and Darrell Rasner.
“It was just an outstanding memory in my life,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz went on to play two seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals organization before moving back to Northern Nevada, where he started his coaching career at Galena in 2003.
Said Ortiz: “There’s nothing but a bright future for our program. I just want to continue that.”