American Leadership Academy Gilbert North against Benjamin Franklin High School

American Leadership Academy Gilbert North head coach Brett Brewer talks to baserunners during a pitching change against Benjamin Franklin High School, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in Queen Creek, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

The ALA Gilbert North baseball squad has reason to believe this is their year. A fast start combined with a talented roster has given the Eagles plenty of reason to be so confident.

The Eagles are motivated after losing in the quarterfinals of the 3A state playoffs against section rival Valley Christian. Head coach Brett Brewer hopes to avoid the mistakes that cost last year’s squad.

“We’re taking it one game at a time and one pitch at a time,” said Brewer.

It’s hard to do better than what the Eagles are doing right now, a 5-0 start with four of those wins being by a margin of at least eight runs. One of the few competitive matchups so far this season was a 2-0 victory over Odyssey Institute, which lost to Sabino High School in last year’s 3A State Championship game.

To date, the Eagles have just three losses on the season. They fell 4-3 to a Desert View team in the 4A Conference, and by the same score to Northwest Christian in extra innings. ALA’s third loss of the season came during a tournament against Crimson Cliffs, an 11-0 team from Utah.

One of the major highlights to start the season for the Eagles is their pitching staff. Seniors Dawson Morris and Spencer Nielson have been staples in the starting rotation combining for a 5-1 record with a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings pitched.

“Dawson and Spencer, we’re putting a lot on them both,” said Brewer. “They’re great leaders and they’re leading the way with this bullpen.”

ALA Gilbert North’s offense has posted some crooked numbers to start this year. They’re doing so however, without any sort of power-hitting element to their game.

Including their preseason tournament games, the Eagles have just one home run in 16 games. The lone homer came off the bat of Brewer in his team’s loss to Northwest Christian. But despite the lack of homers, the Eagles have won three times via the mercy rule this season.

While much of their success at the plate this year can be attributed to subpar competition, the Eagles have serious talent all across their lineup. Senior Easton Webster leads the team with 20 hits including six triples which at one point led all of Arizona. Nielson leads the team in RBIs with 17 while junior Jake Porter and sophomore Boston Morris also provide solid bats in the middle of the Eagles’ lineup.

ALA Gilbert North has a strong upperclassmen core, but one of the biggest names to watch going forward is sophomore Hayden Clegg. Brewer was quick to name Clegg as one of the guys who he believes will be crucial for the team’s success.

“He [Clegg] can do a lot of things for us. He can pitch, he can hit. He’s got a lot of talent,” said Brewer.

Clegg’s two-way talent has shined this season. He is currently tied for the most hits on the team at 21 as of Monday, March 28. He is tied for second on the team in RBIs and has a team-high .512 batting average. He leads the Eagles in innings pitched with 28.1 and boasts an impressive 0.99 ERA with an impressive 34 strikeouts and perfect 5-0 record when on the mound. On a team full of veterans, the sophomore Clegg has proven himself as a foundational piece for the Eagles.

Brewer had hoped for some competitive games to help keep his team focused, but the Eagles will have more than a fair share of tough matchups to look forward to. The 3A Metro region boasts talented squads, including 8-2-1 Eastmark, a young team with big bats, and Arizona College Prep, which despite being in its first season, has already established itself as a contender.

The Eagles can also look forward to a rematch with Valley Christian as they’ll face the Trojans in two of their final three games to end the season. The Trojans are currently 12-4 on the year including tournaments and sit just behind the Eagles in the region standings.

ALA recently wrapped up two games against Benjamin Franklin in Queen Creek. Next week, the Eagles will face Gilbert Christian twice before embarking on the gauntlet of games against Eastmark and Valley Christian before wrapping up its season against San Tan Foothills.

While confident, the Eagles are remaining focused on the task at hand. They want redemption from last season’s loss, and if they stick to the basics, they believe they will get that in due time.

“Forget about what the score is, we can always do better,” Brewer said.

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