Mountain Pointe catcher Cron sets the tone for Pride - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Mountain Pointe catcher Cron sets the tone for Pride

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 5:54 pm | Updated: 11:37 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The first pitch he saw all day was a curveball. Mountain Pointe catcher C.J. Cron, resting an injured quadricep against Scottsdale Horizon Feb. 25, had to sit and watch as his team fell behind 5-0 to the Huskies.

His anticipation grew as the Pride scored twice in the bottom of the sixth.

An inning later MP right fielder Jake Waldren had a lead-off double and Horizon's Johnny Strickland walked the next two batters to load the bases before he was lifted for Joey Bristyan, who walked another to push a runner across.

The bases were still loaded. It was now 5-4. Pride manager Brandon Buck looked down the bench and saw No. 24.

"We told him, ‘If you're 100 percent to swing, we'll get you in there to swing and just kind of go from that. Hit us a bomb or hit us a single, and we'll get someone to run for you,'" Buck said.

So moments later, there Cron was, watching that first-pitch curveball break across the plate for a strike.

Bristyan came back with another curveball, "same exact pitch, a little down," Cron said.

The senior dropped the bat head and golfed it to the gap in left center field, scoring two runs to give Mountain Pointe its first lead of the game at 6-5.

Cron, standing at first base with an emphatic fist pump, had held up his end of the deal.

"I just wanted a chance," Cron said. "I didn't want to sit on the bench any longer. I needed to get out there to try to help the team."

As promised, Buck lifted Cron for pinch runner Joey Rocha, who would come around to score on Waldren's second double of the inning five batters later.

Mountain Pointe led 8-5 after six, gave up a run in the top of the seventh, and went on to win 8-6.

"C.J.'s a special player," Buck said afterward. "That pitcher's thinking, ‘I don't want to leave anything up because he can hit any pitch out.'

"He can influence a game in a heartbeat."

Cron, who set school records for RBIs (44) and doubles (17) in a season as a junior last year, is easily the leader of the Pride this season, both on the field and off.

"There's not too many times you get to coach a kid like that who is as polite as he is, and as nice as he is," Buck said, "but flat-out can play the game."

But things have changed for Cron this season.

Cron, who has already signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Utah next season, has had to adjust from throwing strikes to catching them.

As the Pride's ace last season - he started a team-high 11 games and made a school record 17 appearances - Cron was 9-2 with two saves and a 3.11 ERA in 72 1/3 innings. This season, arm problems have forced him to stay behind the plate.

"It's pretty much the same," he insisted before the season. "There's really no difference."

But for a team that's coming off arguably the best offensive year in school history - setting records for runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs and batting average - forcing Cron, it's best bat, to focus solely on hitting isn't altogether a bad thing.

"CJ Cron is going to be a big one this year," Buck said. "His presence intimidates everyone."

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]