A Look at 2020 Arizona 6A Baseball
Hamilton HS: The Huskies added another 6A Championship trophy to the case last spring, and once again Coach Mike Woods is looking to replace several key performers both on the mound and at the plate. The Huskies graduated 63% of the mound innings from last year, and for many programs this would pose a real problem. Not so much here. For starters Hamilton will roll out the top junior arm in the state in lefty Brock Selvidge, an LSU commit. One of Arizona’s top 2022 arms, Logan Saloman, also returns after throwing 41 innings as a freshman, including the state title game. Add in seniors Kyle Ponzo, Brian Otruba, Ryan Figueroa and Shane Anderson along with a few underclassmen and things should be fine. Offensively roughly 50% of Hamilton’s ABs from last year were lost to graduation. Shortstop Isaiah Adams will take over full time, and he’s poised to be a break out dude, adding a lot of strength in the offseason (he lined a homer to left field in the scrimmage against Corona.) Returners Michael Brueser (ASU) Tyler Wilson (GCU) and Will Maxey (Kansas) are all potent offensive players. All in all its just another reloading year in south Chandler.
Mountain Ridge HS: While all the national pundits are doing their teams rankings, it seems like year after year Ridge goes about its business anonymously. Never mind that these guys seem to always be playing in stadium games well into May. You can’t hide from me though Mountain Ridge. The Lions have the most quality pitching depth in the state…maybe too much depth as finding time for all these arms will be a problem . Also, the state tournament format pretty much negates pitching depth with its spread out schedule. But you know what depth gives you? It gives you options, and that’s always a good thing to have. Returners threw 64% of the innings last year. Zach Rogers, Kyler Stankato, Cayden Collins, Gray Bailey, Matthew Martinez and Brock Peery are all front line type arms. The Lions return one of the better shortstops in the state in Travis Warriner, and they have a pair of solid catchers in Ryan Ellis and Garrett Olson. Expect the Lions to be around again in May.
Mountain Pointe HS: The Pride are a popular choice to make a lot of noise in 6A baseball, and for good reason. New Head Coach JJ Sferra, who played for the Pride and has been an assistant for several years, takes the reins of a talented squad with a lot of experience returning. The Pride need to replace 50% of the mound innings from a year ago, and if senior Ethan Long (ASU) takes the ball on a regular basis, that will go a long way in solving the problem. Nate Ward and his 6-8 frame return, as well as Jacob Beltran and 2021 lefty JR Flores. Offensively 69% of last year’s at bats return. There’s a lot of positional versatility with Tyler Kearney, Tyvon Moore, and Devon Dixon all returning. Shortstop Carson Tucker (Texas) is an elite talent. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Pride have been bounced from the state tournament in the first round the last 3 years. All of this on paper talent is fine, but eventually this group needs to compete when it matters.
Liberty HS: Here’s another west side squad that never seems to get any respect. After winning the 5A title in 2018 and advancing to the 6A quarters last year, the Lions still seem to get little attention. Returning pitchers accounted for 65% of last year’s innings. Liberty has two power arms in juniors right handers Kaden Schielfelbein and Patrick Steitz that should make up the innings along with returners Mitchell Schooler, Trevor Toland, Carson Baker and Tyler Bribiescas. Catcher Kyle Lewis returns and he’s one of the state’s best along with being a solid leader. Junior shortstop Braden Lovett was solid last year and center fielder Trevor Saire can cover a lot of ground.
Corona del Sol HS: The Aztecs made it to the championship game in 6A last season. They are annually one of the better coached teams in the state and a team that typically does not beat itself. In 2020, CDS must replace 2/3 of the innings pitched from last season due to losses from graduation. This worries me a bit as senior LHP Bryan Webb (GCU) went through a myriad of arm issues last spring. Senior RHP David Utagawa (Northwestern) is a legit power arm (up to 91 in the Hamilton scrimmage) but he’s also been prone to soreness/fatigue in the past. Coach Dave Webb needs a lot of innings out of these two in 2020. Junior Quade Swearingen will see some mound time when he isn’t in the outfield, and freshman Justin Corless is already a low to mid 80s arm. The remainder of the staff is unproven. The lineup is solid, with 65% of last season’s ABs returning. Shortstop Hunter Haas (ASU) is one of the best position players in the state. Cade Verdusco might be the best outfielder in the state. Webb is a terrific defender at 1st base when he isn’t on the hill. Kaiden Frees was solid last season and brings a lot of positional flexibility both as an infielder and outfielder. The Aztecs have 2 good catchers in senior Ben Click and junior Zach Kress. Things will have to fall just right for the Aztecs, and they will need production from some newcomers to make some noise in May.
O’Connor HS: Coach Jeff Baumgartner’s 2019 squad was very young, yet the Eagles competed well on their way to an 8-2 record in a tough section. 70 % of the pitching innings from a year ago return, led by junior Barrett Skaugrud. 6-4 senior RHP Adam Koski will be a featured arm as well, and junior Cannon Smith is a newcomer to keep an eye on. The lineup is also pretty intact from a year ago with 60% of the ABs returning. Look for big contributions from seniors Noah Nithman (Air Force) and Colton Kucera (Augustana). Skaugrud is a potent left handed bat as well. The loss of SS Chase Valentine to a pre-season injury certainly hurts, but I expect sophomore Kolt Kurzman to open some eyes . He’s a gamer who can swing it from the left side. This group could be a sleeper in 2020.
Basha HS: T The Bears were eliminated in the 2nd round of the 2019 state tournament, and the team graduated 13 seniors. Graduation took 2/3 of the innings pitched last year and almost the same percentage of at bats. Returners Ryland Zaborowski (3B GCU) and Bitner Workman (SS BYU) are back on the left side of the infield. Zabo figures to be one of the top power bats in the state. Junior Tanner Smith is one of the better offensive catchers in the state. After that there is little position player experience in the lineup. Noah Rodriguez (16 innings) and Blake Berrett (23 innings) are the only returners who saw significant mound time last year. Senior Luke Legumina has looked good when I have seen him throw. Coach Jim Schilling will need some unproven guys to step up in a big way for the Bears to have success this spring.
Perry HS: The Pumas suffered some serious losses to graduation, particularly in position players. Outfielder Brycen Tambone is back, and he is one of the more dependable bats in 6A. Dustin Crenshaw (GCU) is solid at shortstop. Trenton Pallas and Ryan Lucero saw significant time as juniors. The pitching should be a strength, with Jason Barres, Tyler Valdez, Justin Still, Zach de Hondol, and JD Willis all seeing significant time last spring. Kai Taylor and Trevor Desiderio will be big contributors as well.
Red Mountain HS: The Lions lost 5 starters to graduation that accounted for 55% of last season’s ABs. There is some quality returning , however. Catcher Ryan Campos is a dude both at the plate (.460 last year) and behind the dish (U of A commit). Junior Tanner Rice (UT-Arlington) had a solid sophomore season with the bat, and sophomore TJ Adams (Arizona commit) is a good looking athlete. On the mound senior lefty Daevion King worked 49 innings and averaged more than a K per inning. Junior RJ Elmore can eat up a lot of innings. The Lions will need some more young arms to rise to the occasion if they are to contend in 2020.
Chaparral HS: In 2019 freshman RHP Andrew Carroll led the Firebirds pitchers in innings pitched with 26. A handful of returners including Ryan Klotnia, Tyler Stone, Colin Hunter and Sam Steingard threw between 10-20 innings. There’s a lot of innings to make up here. Carroll (U of A) is a front line arm. Offensively, Enzo Apodaca hit .412 and plays an excellent center field. Stone (.350 last year) is a left handed bat with some juice, and 2B Kade Carney hit .388 last season. The remaining returning starters all hit below .300. I have concerns about this team’s ability to score runs, and the 1-0 victory over Gilbert on opening day didn’t change this. Still, there is some talent here if the bats come together and the defense takes care of business.
Pinnacle HS: New Coach Sam Messina takes over a squad that had its share of ups and downs in 2019. There’s some talent returning on the mound, with senior RHP/SS Koldy Kmetko (Washington State) and senior LHP Michael Modrick both seeing significant time last season. Brayden Salas, Michael Riley, and Zack Lane all got the ball last season. The lineup returns Kmetko, Riley, 3B Michael Saylor, and outfielders Jon Lauinger and Dillon Dougherty. It will be a challenge in a very tough region, and some young blood will have to emerge if the Pioneers are to be a factor come May.
Mesa Mountain View HS: The Toros sent retiring coach Mike Thiel off in style, finishing 11-0 in section play last season. Unfortunately for new coach Jesus “Zeus” Arzaga, virtually the entire starting lineup graduated, along with the entire pitching staff. On paper this is clearly a rebuild for the Toros, and in Arzaga they have a positive, high energy guy to lead the way.