The high school baseball season begins on Wednesday with some familiar faces returning to the diamond.
The Tribune’s reigning Player of the Year — Desert Ridge right-hander Scott Hoffman — is back as the Jaguars look to win a third straight title. So is Mountain Pointe’s Kevin Cron, who has a good shot at breaking the state record for home runs in a career.
The competition ramps up quickly, as multiple tournaments begin this week and will give the first peek into the list of contenders in each division. Here’s an early look at teams and players to watch in the upcoming season:
Tribune Preseason Rankings
1. Hamilton — Pitching staff should be dominant, and six position player starters return.
2. Brophy — Joe Maggi and Sean Maxon lead talented core.
3. Gilbert — Big Three of Drew Stankiewicz, Stephen Tarpley and Nathaniel Causey should keep Tigers in the mix.
4. Mesquite — Zach Davies and Garrett Jeffries will be big keys to Wildcats’ success.
5. Red Mountain — Cole Gleason and Ryne Dean lead a powerful lineup, but is there enough pitching?
1. Pinnacle — Jake Peevyhouse, Jake Winters, Steve Casey and Alex Real return for Pioneers.
2. Chaparral — Talented as always, but how will team fare without longtime coach Jerry Dawson?
3. Horizon — Defending champions lose a lot, but seem to always have talent waiting in the wings.
4. Millennium — Tyler Booth and several other talented starters return.
5. Desert Mountain — State runners-up need to replace Taylor Lindsey and several others.
1. Saguaro — Defending champions bring plenty of talent back for run at another title.
2. Sunrise Mountain — Division I commits Tyler Crawford and Aaron Bummer lead the way.
3. Catalina Foothills — Preston Jamison leads the list of returning starters for state runners-up.
4. Queen Creek — Air Force commit Dillon Freeman leads rotation, and Adam Brzeczek, Spencer Kottcamp and Julian Sandoval are top returning hitters.
5. Canyon del Oro — Top seed from a year ago has a lot of holes to fill, but has the program to do it.
1. Notre Dame — Tayler Scott, Joe Greco and Joe Luvisi are back as the Saints hope to avenge last year’s early playoff exit.
2. Greenway — Last year’s runners-up have many key pieces back in place to finish the job.
3. Thunderbird — Marcus Wheeler and other big bats return.
4. Liberty — Defending champions lose eight seniors but should still be in the mix.
5. Arcadia — Six of top eight hitters come back, as does ace Andrew Naderer.
1. Scottsdale Christian — The Logans (Gangsei and Domenico) lead the way as Eagles want to avenge early postseason exit from last year.
2. Camp Verde — Fell just short in title game last season, and hopes to make a return appearance.
3. Bourgade Catholic — Defending champions need to replace star Eric Martinez.
4. Valley Christian — Pitching and power should keep the Trojans in the hunt.
5. Northwest Christian — If Connor Bays can handle being the ace, this team should do well.
Feb. 23: Opening Day
Feb. 23- March 5: Scottsdale Invitational Tournament
March 28-31: Big League Dugout Invitational
April 6: Brophy at Hamilton