Outlook For Arizona 5A Baseball- A Wide Open Affair
Nogales HS: The Apaches lost a marathon heartbreaker in the 5A championship game last season to Horizon, and the Apaches took a bit of a beating to graduation as well. However, Coach OJ Favela has earned much respect from me, and the program he has built has shown it is very capable of reloading in a hurry. The Apaches graduated much of their pitching innings from a year ago, and over 80% of the at bats. The Apaches suffered another blow when RHP Gerardo Martinez opted to no longer play baseball. The bottom line is that the Apaches must replace 68% of their mound innings from a year ago. Gonzaga bound Matthew Bachelier returns. Albert Dominguez, Saul Soto and Jesus Miranda will contribute innings. Julian Grijalva saw time on the hill in 2019. Sophomore SS Demetrio Crisantes looks like a dude both as a defender and at the plate. Kenneth Jimenez moves back behind the plate and he’s one of the better offensive catchers in the state. I’m not worried about this group. There is a quality culture all throughout this program that exudes confidence.
Verrado HS: The Vipers were eliminated in the 2nd round of the state tournament last spring, but there is a lot of experience coming back. Offensively 85% of the at bats are back, with Gillis Champagne, Rocky King, and Tanner Spallina among returners who got at least 60 ABs. On the mound big lefty Cameron Hood will anchor a staff that also includes King, Gillis and Noah Olson. I expect to see the Vipers taking the fields in May games that count.
Horizon HS: The Huskies took the 5A title last spring and suffered some serious losses to graduation. On the mound only 25% of the innings return. The lineup brings back the majority of starters, but it’s the quality of the losses that concern me. Last spring Kody Huff and Tony Sortino put this team on their back and carried them offensively. Huff’s performance in the 16 inning title game was the stuff of legends. It will be extremely difficult to replace the contributions from these guys, but Nick Gore, Austin Corbett, Derek Smith, Kevin Justice, Bobby Koch and Sam Buchkowski all played significant roles last season and will anchor the 2020 squad.
Desert Mountain HS: The Wolves were a final 4 team last spring, but the 2020 version has a lot of offensive talent to replace. Junior Wes Kath (ASU) is back, and he’s one of the top junior bats in the southwest U.S. Jonathan Hoebing, Thomas Napolitano and Luke Moeller who all saw significant action. On the hill, junior Nick Suspenzi led the team in innings last year. Aiden Patterson, Brock Jessup and Connor Elwell all threw significant innings. If the Wolves can replace some offense they should be a factor later this spring.
Notre Dame Prep: No team in 5A returns as much experience as the Saints. Offensively 70 % of the ABs are back to go along with virtually the entire pitching staff. Griffen Chewning and Maguire Peterson are back to anchor the middle infield. Tag Bross (U of A) missed most of last season with an injury and he returns as does Michael Piazza who is a potent bat and a very good athlete. On the mound lefties Connor Markl (GCU) and junior Max Zdimal (Princeton) led the team in innings last year. Elmer Dessens was a big contributor as well. The Saints are an experienced group who made it to the semi-finals last season. Look for them to make a run this year as well.
Millennium HS: The Tigers were a final 8 team last spring, but the pitching staff was decimated by graduation. Junior lefty Connor Hill caught my eye last spring as a 2 way guy. Offensively Trevor Baugh and Eric Sims should make a potent middle infield. Speedy sophomore Kaleb Duncan returns in the outfield. Some new names will have to step up if the Tigers are to be a player in May this year.
Casteel HS: New Coach Matt Denny inherits a pretty experienced group. Last spring Jared Anderson, Connor Hatch, Jeff Sanchez, Luke Thompson, Jaxson Carrasco and CJ Burrell all saw significant at bats. There is a lot of mound talent returning as well, with Tyler Moore, Isaac Rehfield, Matthew Fike, and Riley Davis all getting a healthy number of innings. I expect this team to continue to improve throughout the season, and if they peak at the right time anything could happen.
Campo Verde HS: The Coyotes got bounced in the first round of the 2019 state tournament, and they suffered some significant losses to graduation. Isaiah Lopez was solid at 2B and hit .389 last year. He also contributed on the mound. Junior Jayden Smith had a great sophomore year, hitting .439 and running down everything in center field. Kyle Mentzer saw some time in the outfield last season. Unfortunately that’s it for returning experience in the lineup. Pitching wise it isn’t much better, but Ryan Schiefer, a GCU commit, is a mid to upper 80s guy who can spin it and should be an innings eater for the ‘yotes.
Sunrise Mountain HS: The Mustangs were a final 8 team last spring, and they have some talent returning in the lineup. Jacob Stockton, Garrett Moltz, Tyler Davis, Andy Moreno and Austin Thomason and Spencer Horwath all got at least 50 ABs last year. Davis is recovering from an arm issue so is not throwing off amound yet. Sunrise suffered another blow this winter when junior Dawson DeHerrera had TJ surgery. Moltz threw 17 innings last season to lead all returners. Some young arms are going to have to step up for the ‘stangs to make some noise in 2020.
Sunnyslope HS: The Vikings may have the most experienced lineup in 5A returning this ear. SS/RHP Drew Bond (Gonzaga) hit .433 and homered 3 times last year. He’s an upper 80’s front line arm as well. LHP Josh Combs (Point Loma) was 6-2 last season with a 2.22 ERA. He’s one of the better lefties in the 2020 class. Tommy Bonetto (Westmont) was a big mound contributor as well. The majority of the positional starters are back as well, but Bond’s .433 average was over 100 points higher than anyone else in the lineup. Catcher Nate Wardell suffered a broken bone in his hand last week and is out indefinitely. The Vikings need some bats to come alive this spring to help out a solid mound staff.
Cienega HS: Coach Kelly Johnson returns the majority of his starting lineup on a team that lost a play-in game last spring. There is some quality coming back, with Ben Staiger, Braeden Mondeau, and Daniel Montana all having good years at the plate. Sophomore catcher Caleb Herd is super quick and a very good receiver. On the mound Cole Bramhall is a top arm. Wyatt Wingstead is a solid 2 way guy. There is talent here, don’t be surprised to see the Bobcats make some noise this spring.