Fundamentals are still the root of baseball. If you don't have pitching and defense, good luck getting deep into the state tournament. But boy, long balls sure are fun.
Last season, a player going yard was a rare sight. This year, it seems everyone is getting their chance to circle the bases.
On April 1 of last year, three players - Chandler Hamilton's Kyle Peterson, Mesa Desert Ridge's Jake Barrett and Gilbert's Jacob Corpron - were tied for the area lead with six home runs apiece.
Through April 3 of this season, 14 players in the East Valley had seven home runs or more.
Barrett is leading the way with 15. He has 64 official at-bats this season, meaning he has averaged one round-tripper for every 4.27 at-bats.
Scottsdale Horizon's Tommy Joseph is on his heels with 13, and Taylor Lindsey of Scottsdale Desert Mountain has 12.
The state record is 22, set by Phoenix Desert Vista's Corey Myers in 1999. Myers went on to be the fourth overall draft pick in that summer's Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Scottsdale Horizon's Brandon Wood hit 20 home runs in 2003, and was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Barrett could also be a first-rounder, though it's because of his mid-90's fastball, not his bat. In 26 innings pitched, Barrett is 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA, striking out 43 batters over that span.
Still, he is on a state record pace for long balls. Barrett has hit 15 home runs in 20 games heading into Tuesday's action, an average of .75 home runs per game.
With at least 11 contests left - nine in the regular season, and at least two in the state tournament - staying on that pace would put him at 23.
Barrett has committed to play at Arizona State, though getting drafted early could alter those plans. But if he does become a Sun Devil, Barrett said he would love to continue hitting.
Joseph, an Arizona commit, also has an outside shot at the record. The Huskies also have nine regular-season games left - plus the two in the state tournament, to which Horizon is practically a lock - but he would have to hit nearly one home run a game to pass Myers.
At the end of last season, the East Valley leader - Chris Manship of Cave Creek Cactus Shadows - finished with 13 home runs, and six players made it into double digits.
With a large chunk of the schedule still left to be played, expect multiple players to easily surpass the double-digit mark before the season is over.
It has been a steep fall for the Chandler Hamilton baseball team. After winning its first 11 games of the season, the Huskies have followed that up by losing six of seven games heading into Tuesday night's action against Gilbert.
The struggles include a five-game losing streak at an inopportune time. Hamilton has started off Fiesta Region play 0-3, already falling three games behind region-leading Gilbert.
They did get some good news this week, as key player Matt Helm was cleared to be the designated hitter against the Tigers. Helm has missed all but two games this season with a knee injury.
You don't think the fight for the 5A-II Pima Region crown is going to be a knock-down, drag-out affair? Check out the most recent power points. As of Tuesday, the five region teams held the top five spots in 5A-II. Desert Ridge came in first, followed by Phoenix Pinnacle, Scottsdale Horizon, Tempe Marcos de Niza and Mesa Skyline.
The Seton softball team has clearly anointed itself the team to beat in 4A-II. The Sentinels are 10-0 in power point games, outscoring their last six opponents by a score of 64-0. They even had an impressive showing against much bigger schools in the Desert Mountain Invitational, grabbing the top seed in the tournament and beating 5A contenders Peoria Centennial and Sierra Vista Buena to advance to the championship game. Basha knocked them off in the title game.
Keep an eye on the 200-meter dash when the 5A-I boys state track meet comes around. Much can happen between now and then, but it's shaping up to be one of the most exciting events of the day. Chandler's Markus Wheaton currently holds the fastest time in the event at 21.42 seconds. Chandler Hamilton's Ryan Milus has a top time of 21.43 seconds, and Phoenix Desert Vista's Spencer Chase has run it in 21.45 seconds this year. Chandler needs to do well in this event if it has a chance to knock off the Thunder at state.
Valley Christian infielder Shelby Richardson went 6-for-8 with three doubles and eight runs scored in a pair of wins last week against Wickenburg and Phoenix North Pointe.
"Winning it like this, they get all worked up about it, but we still have work to do." - Mesquite boys volleyball coach Taryn Smith, after her team rallied from two games down to beat Gilbert and stay undefeated in power point matches.