Thirteen, generally an unlucky number, was a very significant value for Mesa High’s baseball team last week.
Due in great part to 13, the Jackrabbits’ fortunes took a drastic turn in one week for new coach Steve Gourde.
After posting just three wins in its first 13 games covering non-region and tournament play that concluded March 20, the Jackrabbits struck it rich last week winning as many games in 72 hours as they had won the first month. The fact all were region wins made it all the sweeter for Gourde.
‘‘I told our groundskeeper we need to figure a way to score 13 runs and we did the first game,’’ Gourde said. ‘‘We finally got hits with runners on base. That was something we didn't do much in games before last week. I used my thumb and index finger to tell our kids we were just this far away from winning some games. We put things together last week at the plate. We preached that to the kids that those first 13 games didn't mean anything. We played pretty well and hit the ball as well as we have all season.’’
As luck would have it, Mesa scored 13 runs in winning each of its three games last week. Mesa started region play by sweeping a two-game series with Red Mountain (13-3 and 13-8), which entered region play with the best record of the six teams in the region at 7-5. Last Friday the Jackrabbits blew a big lead, rallied in the last inning to tie and went on to score five runs in the eighth inning to walk off a 13-10 victory over Dobson.
TOP TENNIS TUSSLE
Prep tennis is often a tough sell to spectators, but this afternoon's match between Arcadia's Cooper Fratt and Chaparral's Austin Kakar should be well worth watching. Fratt is currently ranked 11th in the United States Tennis Association Southwest Region, while Kakar ranks 18th. Fratt has won all four meetings between the two, but each match was close.
Complicating matters is the fact that they are good friends and play together on the USTA's top-ranked 16-and-under doubles team. "It's like a chess game," Arcadia coach Bob Straub said of the Fratt-Kakar matches. "They've been playing together for as long as they've been playing tennis. They come from the same professional coaching. They're mirror images of each other. It's some of the best tennis you'll see around here."
UNDER WATCHFUL EYES
Horizon High shortstop Brandon Wood is having fun his senior season for the top-ranked Huskies (15-1). Arguably Arizona's top prospect in the eyes of pro scouts this spring, Wood has been impressive. Who wouldn't be having fun with numbers the four-year Husky varsity veteran has posted so far?
Wood is batting .509 with eight home runs, 11 doubles, 29 RBIs and 31 runs scored in the Huskies’ first 16 games.
HAMILTON ON A ROLL
Hamilton baseball coach Mike Woods was confident his nearly totally retooled squad could be very good this season.
Many of the seniors on this year’s squad were 18-1 as junior varsity players their sophomore year. The Huskies caught fire in the middle of the Central-East Valley-Fiesta tournament and have continued to play well as their 14-5 record indicates. Only two players return from last year's varsity squad that went deep into the 5A playoffs.
One of those players, pitcher C.J. Retherford, has picked up where he left off last year in leading the pitching staff and delivering clutch hits.
Retherford was 10-1 pitching last year and batted .325. He is 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA so far, tied for third in the area in strikeouts (36) and among the area leaders in home runs with five.
RUN PRODUCTION STALLED
The Westwood softball team hopes to get its offense untracked now that it has four of six league games with Red Mountain and Mountain View behind it. The Warriors had scored only 17 runs this season in 11 games for an average of 1.5 per game heading into Monday's game with Mesa. Pitcher Malia Simmons is 0-6 with a 1.73 ERA and leads the team in batting at .400. Teammate Erica Rode is batting .364. Only one other player is hitting above .200.
Mountain View coach Dale Goodman believes the East Valley Region race will come down to the Toros and Mountain Lions but thinks one team is overlooked right now.
‘‘Westwood may have something to say about the race before it’s done,’’ Goodman said. ‘‘They played us tough, and gave Red Mountain a tough time.’’
JORDAN WILL RETURN
Chandler’s Joshua Jordan, perhaps the premiere long jumper in the East Valley, did not participate in Saturday’s Chandler Rotary Invitational. But he won’t be out for too long.
According to coach Steve Carson, Jordan sat out the meet because he is a little beat up.
Jordan, the defending 5A state champ in the long jump, will return to action soon. Earlier this season, Carson said Jordan’s goal is to reach 26 feet.