The worlds of Scottsdale and the lower East Valley cities will collide in Division I baseball this season.
Teams like Chaparral, Desert Mountain, Horizon and Pinnacle were the class of 5A Division II for the past few years. They’re now lumped with traditional 5A-I powers like Brophy, Desert Ridge and Hamilton as the race for the state title will be fierce.
Mountain Pointe is the defending 5A-I champion, and despite the loss of 2011 Tribune Player of the Year Kevin Cron, has talent returning, led by Joey Curletta. Brophy and Hamilton look strong, as does Mesquite.
Chaparral won the 5A-II championship a season ago and has been one of the state’s strongest programs for years. Desert Mountain, Pinnacle and Horizon are also perennial contenders.
“It’s going to be a test of a true state champion this year,” Mesquite coach Jeff Holland said. “If you win it this year you’re pretty much the top-dog in the state. It leaves no doubt. You are the best team.”
Hamilton third baseman Mitch Nay could take over for Cron as a star player, as the Arizona State-commit could be a high MLB draft pick in June.
Saguaro returns talent and is an early favorite in Division II, while teams like Arcadia and Seton Catholic hope to be in the mix.
A new regulation for the potency of bats will likely curb scoring because balls don’t travel as far when not hit soundly. The state tournaments are expanding from 16 to 24 teams this year. In Divisions I and II, there will be a bye in the first round for the top eight teams. Starting with the quarterfinals, the postseason will be double-elimination.
Players to watch
Chris Akmon, Sr., OF, Saguaro; Ricky Alvarez, Sr., SS, Skyline; Spencer Applebach, Sr., P/OF, Mesquite; Reed Austin, Sr., IF, Saguaro; Chris Beall, Sr., OF, Brophy; Keaton Boysen, Sr., OF, Desert Mountain; Collin Braithwaite, Sr., C, Perry; Kyle Campbell, Sr., OF/C, Williams Field; Gary Cornish, Sr., R/OF, Arcadia; David Carr, Sr., RHP, Dobson; Keaton Cenatiempo, Sr., RHP/1B, Desert Ridge; Alex Colegrove, Sr., SS, Campo Verde; Dylan Cozens, Sr., 1B, Chaparral; Joey Curletta, Sr., 1B, Mountain Pointe; Nick Diamond, Sr., LHP, Chaparral; Jaren Drummond, Sr., LHP, Perry; Houston Edwards, Sr., RHP, Coronado; Willie Ethington, Sr., RHP, Mountain View; Nick Fatica, Sr., OF, Marcos de Niza; Seth Fretheim, Sr., SS, Mesquite; Parker Gallegos, Sr., SS, Hamilton; Shane Gareg, Sr., SS, Poston Butte; Zach Gibbons, Sr., OF, Saguaro; Trent Goodrich, Sr., SS, Hamilton; David Graybill, Sr., OF, Brophy; Garrett Jeffries, Sr., P/OF, Mesquite; Kyle Jorgensen, Sr., IF, Corona del Sol; Scott Kingery, Sr., SS., Mountain Pointe; Luke Leftwich, Sr., RHP, Desert Vista; Justin McAllister, Sr., LHP, Gilbert; Drew McLaughlin, Sr., 2B, Desert Mountain; Eric Melbostad, Sr., RHP, Pinnacle; Cody Moffet, Sr., LHP, Highland; Tommy Moser, Sr., RHP, Paradise Valley; Andrew Naderer, Sr., LHP, Arcadia; Mitch Nay, Sr., 3B, Hamilton; Kevyn Nunez, Sr., LHP, Higley; Jeff Paschke, Jr., SS, Valley Christian; Hunter Rodriguez, Sr., LHP, Desert Vista; Troy Ruggiero, Sr., RHP, Seton; Aaron Smith, Sr., SS, Red Mountain; Ryan Tomita, Sr., SS, Horizon; Riley Unroe, Jr., SS, Desert Ridge; Jamie Westbrook, Jr., SS, Basha; Tim Willites, Jr., RHP, Desert Mountain.
March 12-17 — Cleats Sports Classic Invitational
March 13 — Mtn. Pointe at Hamilton
March 19-23 — Big League Dugout Invitational
March 19-31 — Coach Bob Invite
April 20 — Brophy at Chaparral
April 24 — Horizon at Desert Mtn.
April 28 — State tournaments begin through May 15
Bats: New composite bat standards should drastically reduce the amount of runs scored in high school baseball this year. The NCAA switched to the new regulations a season ago and the effects were noticeable. Former Mtn. Pointe slugger Kevin Cron set a single-season home run record last year with 27, and that number could last for a long time if these revisions stick.
Classifications: The number of divisions was reduced from seven to four. Several of the state’s traditional powerhouses are now clumped together in the top division, which should make the state tournament very competitive. Many coaches like the new version because it makes a state title more prestigious.
State tournament format: Twenty-four teams will qualify for all four divisions’ state tournaments. The top four teams from each section get an automatic berth, and the next 12 in the power-point rankings earn at-large spots. The top-8 teams overall (based on power points) earn a first-round bye. For Divisions I and II, the tournament moves to double elimination once it reaches the quarterfinals. Division III and IV tournaments are both single-elimination.