The men of the diamond return this week and, as always with baseball in Arizona, the level of play will be high and the presence of professional scouts just might outnumber fans in attendance when certain prospects take the mound.
Arizona, especially the East Valley, has become a gold mine for top college recruits and professional draft picks, and 2015 won’t do anything to stop that trend.
Remember the champs
Hamilton beat Mesquite 8-4 for the Division I title; Phoenix Greenway shutout Nogales 8-0 for the Division II championship; Palo Verde edged Northwest Christian 5-4 for Division III rings; Desert Christian was the lone repeat champ as it beat Pusch Ridge 4-2 to keep the Division IV title.
Who is back
The All-Tribune squad has a handful of players back looking for repeat stand out seasons.
• Perry infielder Jeremy McCuin hit .449 with 24 RBIs last season.
• Mesquite outfielder Cole Valletta is coming off a season that saw him hit eight home runs and drive in 21 with a .325 average as the power source for the DI state runner-ups.
• It is be hard to imagine Hamilton’s Zach Pederson topping last year’s 12-0 season with a 2.42 ERA, but the right-hander will still be one of the top hurlers in the area.
• Ethan DeWitt, a junior, had a .471 on-base percentage and a .419 batting average along with 22 extra-base hits.
• Chandler outfielder Wyatt Wilson looks to improve on his junior season, when he finished with a .383 batting average and a .453 on-base percentage.
• Toro hurler Brent Bailey had a 2.32 ERA in 18 innings as Mountain View’s No. 3 last year, while contributing with the bat as well.
Mountain Pointe received a nice transfer from Nogales, as Alan Garcia, an Arizona State recruit, will find a spot in the Pride outfield. In the 13 games recorded on MaxPreps he hit .463 (19 of 41) with seven runs and four extra-base hits.
In addition to McCuin, a Sun Devil to be, Perry has three other players committed to colleges, as Austin Bull (Grand Canyon), Ryne Edmondson (UNLV) and Tyler Watson (Loyola Marymount) give the Pumas a formidable foursome.
The other known area signees are Hamilton’s Jake Wong (Grand Canyon), Mesquite’s Jake Suddreth (Hawaii Pacific), Basha’s Jake Peloquin (Western Oregon), Basha’s Jeremy Norris (Grand Canyon), and Queen Creek’s Josh Andrews (Grand Canyon).
Early season tournaments get players at-bats and allow for pitching staffs to find their stride.
Here are few from the first couple of weeks — McClintock’s Harold Bull Classic (Feb. 25-28), Adam Donnenfield Classic (Feb. 25-28) with a field that includes Corona del Sol, Basha, Williams Field, Chandler and Seton Catholic; the 16th-annual Desert Vista tournament (Feb. 27-28, March 7) that includes Red Mountain, Mesquite, Mountain View, Desert Mountain and Hamilton.
The Arizona High School Invitational (March 23-26) is the late big-time tournament before the postseason begins, as Brophy, Mountain Pointe, Hamilton, Corona del Sol will compete along with out of state programs Thunder Ridge, Meridian, Rocky Mountain and Yucaipa.
Teams to watch
MaxPreps top 5 regardless of division — 1. Horizon, 2. Mesquite, 3. Hamilton, 4. Liberty, 5. Greenway.
The way we see it (East Valley only) — 1. Hamilton, 2. Mesquite, 3. Perry, 4. Mountain Pointe, 5. Mountain View, 6. Corona del Sol, 7. Desert Vista, 8. Gilbert, 9. Queen Creek, 10. Desert Ridge.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.