Division I and II baseball state tournament outlooks - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Division I and II baseball state tournament outlooks

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 5:27 pm

For every baseball player that made the postseason, the directions are simple: Go out and win. Then keep winning. And don’t stop for a couple weeks.

For the rest of us, it’s time to see how the new baseball state tournament structure plays out, and there are certainly enough angles to keep our attention.

After a parity-filled regular season in which the top teams beat up on each other, will a dominant squad emerge? The traditional top-classification powers like Hamilton, Mesquite and Brophy are in the mix again, while the strong Scottsdale programs have joined the fray and don’t seem intimidated in the least. In Division II, Scottsdale Saguaro looks to repeat but has a cast of formidable foes.

There’s also the new format, in which 24 teams make the postseason, the top-8 seeds have a bye, and the first two rounds are single elimination. Will there be enough pitching left by the end to have a well-played final few games, or will this be survival by any means necessary?

The playoffs begin on Saturday, and here’s a primer for the action:

Division I baseball state tournament

When: Saturday through May 15

Where: First two rounds at higher seed; third round through semifinals at Camelback Ranch-Glendale or Phoenix Municipal Stadium; Championship game on May 15 at 7 p.m. at Camelback Ranch.

Format: 24 teams; Top-8 have first-round bye; First two rounds single elimination; Remaining rounds double elimination.

Favorite: Chaparral. Truthfully there are five teams — Chaparral, Desert Mountain, Mesquite, Hamilton and Brophy — which seem to be a notch above the rest in Division I this season, but none has separated itself from the others. Much depends on the playoff draw, which wasn’t finalized by late Thursday afternoon. However, Chaparral has the most potent offense among the contenders, led by slugger Dylan Cozens, which gives it the slightest edge. That being said, this year’s tournament is a crapshoot, and the way the seedings play out will have a giant effect on the results.

Darkhorse: Gilbert. If the matchups hold, the Tigers get a good first-round draw against St. Mary’s. Gilbert currently sits as the No. 21 seed, and entering the tournament without a first-round bye and needing two straight road wins to make the top-8 isn’t ideal. However, the Tigers are one of the scariest lower-seeded teams in the field. They went 18-11 on the season and captured wins over Desert Mountain, Chaparral, Desert Vista, Mountain View, Mesquite, Basha, Red Mountain and Corona del Sol, among others. Gilbert lost four of its last six games but has shown the ability to stick with the state’s elite. Being a contender following the graduations of Drew Stankiewicz, Stephen Tarpley and Nathaniel Causey was expected to be tough — and it still might be — but Gilbert has shown enough in stretches this year to make other teams wary.

Outlook: As mentioned, this year’s state tournament is tough to gauge. Desert Mountain looked like the best team early, then Hamilton, Chaparral, Mesquite and Brophy all took turns at the top. Lately, teams like Desert Ridge and Pinnacle have been coming on strong, while defending champion Mountain Pointe lurks. The muted bats should lead to lower-scoring games in the tournament, which allows for the possibility of more upsets. The new format is also an important factor, as a bad game in the second round will make for a quick exit for any of the top-8 seeds. The consolidation of divisions also has pushed teams like Desert Mountain, Chaparral and Pinnacle up from 5A-II, so there is the added depth of quality teams. In short, hold on to your horses. This could be a wild ride.

Division II baseball state tournament

When: Saturday through May 15

Where: First two rounds at higher seed; third round through semifinals at various Spring Training stadiums; Championship game on May 15 at 7 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Format: 24 teams; Top-8 have first-round bye; First two rounds single elimination; Remaining rounds double elimination.

Favorite: Saguaro. The road hasn’t been quite as smooth as last year, when Saguaro went 34-4 and won the 4A-I state title. However, the Sabercats are still 23-7 this season and will have the all-important first-round playoff bye. Chris Akmon (.474 average, 4 HR, 29 RBI) and Zach Gibbons (.459 average, 27 SB) lead the offense, while Alan Madsen (7-2, 2.60 ERA) is the ace of the pitching staff. Saguaro has a lot of talent back from last year’s champs and has played a challenging schedule, including an early-season tournament against the top teams from Division I, in which the Sabercats more than held their own. Saguaro isn’t as big of a favorite this year as it was in 2011, but the Sabercats should definitely be in the mix.

Darkhorse: Arcadia. The Titans lost five power point games, but four of those came to top-5 teams Saguaro and Sunnyslope. Arcadia went 20-7 overall in the regular season, which included a win over Desert Mountain. The Titans are tough, with ace Andrew Naderer (5-1, 1.54 ERA) leading the way on the mound and formidable bats including Drew Butler (.468 average, 4 HR, 37 RBI) and Brendan Satran (.432 average, 21 SB) at the plate. Arcadia did not get a top-8 seed, so the Titans will have to win a pair of games to make the double-elimination tournament. Naderer gives the Titans a great chance in the playoff opener, and then the team will need to play well in the second round to beat a higher-seeded opponent. Arcadia has looked like a top-10 team all year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Titans make it into the double elimination portion of the tournament.

Outlook: Saguaro, Sunrise Mountain and Liberty have been the ‘Big Three’ for most of the year, alternating atop the rankings. Those schools get a first-round bye and can throw its ace in the second round, so the chances of advancing to the final eight are good. There are several Tucson teams that can make some noise, led by Sabino, which is third in the power rankings. Canyon del Oro, Salpointe and Sahuaro have all shown their worth and could make a run. Sunnyslope is 23-4, which is the third-best winning percentage in the division, and could be a contender, while Notre Dame has turned it on late to grab a high seed. Verrado went 25-2 in the regular season, but didn’t play a tough schedule.

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