The Inside Pitch- So who do ya like?
It’s the time of year where I am getting this question frequently, so lets take a second to discuss the contenders for 2018.
In the 6A Conference no one should be very surprised if we see a rematch of last years state championship game between Pinnacle and Hamilton.
Hamilton, despite graduating a number of key performers from last season, has reloaded the machine and looks as prepared as anyone to make noise. The Huskies have some solid arms in Hayden Baker (Pacific signee), junior lefty Shane Murphy (Grand Canyon commit), and Dustin Bermudez.
They are strong behind the dish with Britt Graham (New Mexico State), and have 2 premier outfielders in junior JD McLaughlin (Oregon State) and sophomore Michael Brueser. Bermudez has taken over at shortstop and he is a very capable defender who handles the bat well.
The Huskies have 2 of the top underclass bats in the state in junior JD McLaughlin (Oregon State) and soph Michael Brueser.
Perhaps most importantly is the culture in Husky land. This is a program that expects to be playing on the last day of the season. Anything else is a disappointment. They’ve been there on numerous occasions and it would be no surprise to see them there again in May.
Pinnacle has the deepest group of arms in 6A with Mason Gray (Utah Valley), Ty Woessner (ASU) and Calvin Schapira. Schapira just won a state title with the basketball team and has had arm issues in the past so his availability is a question mark. Senior Kyle Carriker and promising 6-5 Junior Max Kendall will contribute as well.
The Pioneers have had some big offensive success in the early part of the season, but Coach Roy Muller knows his club will have to be very efficient with the bats to produce runs.
Red Mountain, on paper, stacks up with any lineup in the state. Defensively the Lions are strong up the middle with Randy Hutson behind the plate, shortstop Austin Duffy and 2B Tyler Rice. Andrew Hayes at 1B and on the bump has been a four year performer for RM.
Kai Murphy (Oregon State) and Connor Thurman (U of A) are a formidable 1-2 punch on the hill, and Sam Clow provides added depth.
Talent alone should get the Lions to the dance. The big question will be the lack of tournament experience and how that will affect their results.
I think many people are sleeping on Mountain Ridge. Despite having perhaps the top prep pitcher in the nation in Matthew Liberatore (U of A), I don’t hear them mentioned much as legit title contenders.
Adding Zach Martinez (U of A) to the mound mix will be a big boost for the second half of the season. Mason Piert is a very capable third arm.
I like the double play combo of Jason Harayda (Seattle U) and sophomore Travis Warriner.
Preston Godfrey and Jake Robson provide some legit thump to the lineup.
This program has been there before. They’ve knocked on the door in the past. Can they open it this May?
Horizon must replace all but 8 innings of varsity innings on the hill from last season. IF there’s anyone who can mix and match a pitching staff with success it will be Coach Eric Kibler.
Kody Huff (Notre Dame) and Tony Sortino provide some juice to the lineup. Logan Kershner and Luke Francis both were contribuotors in 2017.
Watch out for sophomores Bobby Koch and Nick Gore, who are off to hot starts.
Corona del Sol is incredible young, starting only one senior. However, this club is well coached, disciplined and they won’t beat themselves.
Hunter Haas (Oregon State) takes over at SS. Sophomore Cade Verdusco covers a ton of ground in CF and is a catalyst type player offensively. Brian Kalmer and Wyatt Berry have flip flopped 2b to 3B . Kalmer is off to a hot start with the bat.
Sophomore LHP/1B Bryan Webb and junior LHP Danny Sotelo will eat up a lot of innings, with junior Aaron Garcia and Matt Novis seeing a lot of mound time as well. The Aztecs always seem to be in the mix come early May. Their time may be a year or two down the road.
Sandra Day O’Connor rolls out one of the nation’s top hitters in 3B Nolan Gorman (U of A) , and one of the state’s top athletes in SS Jayce Easley (Oregon State).
Catcher Jake Vesecky is solid defensively and will need to provide protection in the lineup for Gorman. Junior Noah Burgarello (Utah) teams up with Easley for a strong middle infield duo. I really like Amari Bartee as a CF. Tristen DeJesus is a tough out along with Mason Skaugrud.
The question mark will be pitching depth. Cal Lambert is a promising left hander. Senior RHP Mitchell Decovich is deceptive. A host of untested arms will have to eat up a lot of innings for the Eagles to be a big factor.
In 5A Mesquite has the deepest staff in the state.
Juniors Davis Heller (Oklahoma) and TJ Clarkson ( U of San Diego) join seniors Josh Webster (ASU) and David Watson (Utah) to eat up most of the mound innings. Junior Jacob Henderson has verbally committed to the Univ of Iowa as a pitcher, but will see mainly outfield innings due to the depth of this staff.
Willie Cano and Grant Gorrell are very solid up the middle defensively.
The question marks revolve around the offense. If they can scratch out enough runs, the arms may be enough to put Jeff Holland and his team backat the top of the podium.
Queen Creek will be a thorn in the side of every team that plays them this season. Coach Mikel Moreno’s uber-aggressive offense will drive pitching coaches and catchers crazy.
Switch hitting Sophomore Jacob Berry (U of A) is an elite offensive player in the making. Kevon Jackson is a burner and Ryan Dobbs was a key performer last year. Colton Cassinelli is one of the top players in the 2018 class and will catch and see time on the mound. He is a dangerous left handed bat.
Covering all of the mound innings will be the big question mark here.
New Verrado coach Mike Ward inherits a solid group of returning performers.
Brady Bulger (Utah Valley) Breckyn Montano, Dominic Damrbiex and Hayden Brown all had good junior seasons.
Montano and Kyle Wellman return on the bump and sophomore Colton Keith will be a key two way guy.
Campo Verde was the runner up last season and lost some key guys to graduation.
The cupboard is not bare, however. SS Camden Vasquez (U of San Diego) is one of the best at his position in the state.
Jake Wolfe is a very capable defensive catcher. Noah Schiefer returns at 3B.
Jarrett Wolfe, Garrett Thormahlen, Kyle Kloeppel, Cameron Pehrson and Asher Hagemeister give the Coyotes some good mound depth.
Defending champ Kellis has one of the more dynamic players in the state in SS Jonathan Ornelas.
I’m a big fan of junior CF Sam Curran and 3B Damien McElroy. Justin Flebbe payed well at 1B last spring
Somehow the Cougars have to cover over half of their mound innings from last season. McElroy, Ornelas and Flebbe saw a lot of time last year, but others will have to step up if Kellis hopes to make noise.
Notre Dame has to be considered a strong 5A contender.
The outfield of seniors Tyler Cranston (Elon Univ), Ben Nemivant (Pacific) and junior Jarrett Pille (Utah Valley) may be the best in the state at any level.
Senior catcher Joe Terlizzi (UT- Arlington) returns and will handle a pitching staff led by seniors Jared Farquhar and Zach Dimal.
In the 4A Conference Nogales returns 6 starters from a lineup that terrorized opposing teams last season.
Ricky Maytorena, Marcel Bachelier (U of A), Kevin Jimenez (New Mexico State) Jorge Bojorquez and Alex Acevedo all had big junior years.
Mark Lopez (New Mexico State) will head up the mound crew, but some other guys are going to have to step up.
Cactus Shadows has a strong lineup with returners Peyton McGregor, Ty Mead, Dylan Skov, Zane Arrendale, Nathan Cassara and Trent Tavaras.
Arrendale and Tyler Williams will anchor the pitching staff, but help has to come from some unproven underclassmen.
Sunrise Mountain has a good looking mix of mound talent and returning offensive players.
The Mustangs have one of the better 1-2 punches on the bump with Troy Balko and Trevor Pruitt.
Tyler Pruitt, Caden Albertson, EJ Sua, Caleb Thomason and Ethan Snodgrass were all key performers last year.
Canyon del Oro is a perennial contender with one of the top players in the state in Tyler Porter.
There’s options on the mound, but not a lot of proven commodities.
Liberty is another program who seems to always be playing well into May.
With Isaiah Montoya (UNLV) and junior Chandler Murphy (U of A) comprising a top 1-2 punch on the hill, the Lions will compete.
The Lions are replacing virtually their entire infield, so getting some consistency there will be key.
Catcher Brady Welch is a solid backstop and a potent bat. Colorado move in JD Wadleigh is a fleet centerfielder and will help on the mound as well.