The area baseball teams are looking for the extended stay program this year.
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe both made the postseason in 2012 when the field expanded to 24 teams, but didn’t stick around long as each fell in the second round to an eventual state finalist.
Both teams had plenty of talent a year ago, but a sluggish regular season led to a difficult seed and an early exit.
With the talent returning in 2013 that could change, while Horizon Honors, which missed the postseason all together with a difficult 5-15 season, making a push toward .500.
Desert Vista was the 20th seed a year ago and lost to Division I state runner-up Brophy.
The Thunder, led once again by Stan Luketich, who is the only coach the program has known, won’t start the year as one of the state favorites, but clearly have the talent and a fundamental style that lends to a late season push.
“The kids work hard in practice,” Luketich said. “Only time will tell (on how good they can be), but we should have good team chemistry.”
The leaders of the team will be senior shortstop Colby Woodmansee (.326, 10 extra base hits, 19 runs, 19 RBIs) and right-handed pitcher Tyler Viza, who made 11 appearances, including two starts, and posted a 4.67 ERA with a 2-1 record.
Luketich said most of the positions were up for grabs, but it’s a good bet that senior Drew Cutchall (.312 in 80 at bats) and junior AJ Valencia (.304 in 69 at bats) are in the mix.
The pitching might be a little more unsettled as the team opens the year on Friday against Red Mountain as the Thunder hosts its annual opening-week tournament.
“We could have a pretty good hitting team, but that also will play itself in the next month,” Luketich said. “We are inexperienced on the mound.”
Mountain Pointe was the 15th seed a year ago and lost to state champion Chaparral in a season that never seemed to come together fully. It often happens in the year following a state title run. Whether it is a bull’s eye from opponents or extra pressure put on themselves, the next season can be difficult.
Mountain Pointe, which opens the season Thursday in the Horizon Pre-season Tournament against Pinnacle, never hit a groove for a long period.
This season could be different with plenty of talent for coach Brandon Buck to work with the Pride dugout as the returning starters will be back by the junior varsity players who went 14-4 last season.
Senior Brantley Bell moves to the middle infield with pitching duties mixed to lead the way, while junior outfielder Ernie de la Trinidad, junior middle fielder Cole Tucker and junior catcher Jorge Carrazco will be counted on offensively.
The pitching will be led by senior left-handers Zach Cordova and Kyle Dominy, with a parade of right-handers as well.
Horizon Honors, which opens the year on Feb. 26 at home agianst Gilbert Christian, is looking to end a streak of losing seasons that dates back to at least the 2006-07 season.
Eagles coach Kevin Burdette is back as head coach and thinks Horizon Honors can turn the corner this year.
“We have a great group of young men who need to come together as a team for us to be successful,” he said.
The team is expected to lean on seniors Sean Broderick, who uses three pitches to pound the strike zone, and center fielder Jake Connell, who is the vocal leader and led the Eagles in most offensive categories.
It is going to take more than those two to build Horizon Honors into a consistent winner in 2013.
“We need to gain experience at some key positions on the field,” Burdette said. “Offensively, we need to be aggressive on the bases, put the ball in play to advance our base runners, and be smart.”
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