The balance of power keeps shifting in the major boys sports this school year. In football, the Fiesta Region reigned supreme. The Central Region has dominated during the the boys basketball season.
And in the spring? Look for the Desert Valley Region baseball teams to flex their muscles under the new 5A realignment.
Horizon, Desert Mountain, Pinnacle and Chaparral all reside in the Desert Valley Region. When it comes to state-title contenders, they are usually in the thick of it every year.
"I like it," Horizon coach Eric Kibler said. "The last region we were in was good, but there was a lot of travel. With this region there are a lot of good neighborhood rivalries. It should be a lot of fun... I think."
Combined, the foursome has four state titles, three runner-ups and five semifinal appearances in their respective conferences over the last four years.
Horizon has been a state champ twice (once in 5A-I and once in 5A-II) and a state runner-up twice (once in each).
Chaparral has two 4A-I state titles and a pair of semifinal appearances in the last four years.
Desert Mountain was the state runner-up in 5A-II in 2007, made the final four in 5A-I in 2008 and made the final eight in 2006 and 2009.
Pinnacle, which was in 4A-I in 2006 and 2007 and 5A-II in 2008 and 2009, was a semifinalist in 2006 and a semifinalist in 2009. The Pioneers lost in the first round of 2007 in 4A-I and went 1-2 in the 5A-II tourney in 2008.
"If you can get out of this region and get to state, you should be able to take care of yourself," Kibler said. "I really am looking forward to it."
Two 5A-I schools, St. Mary's and Phoenix North Canyon, also reside in the Desert Valley. But they'll have their hands full with the smaller 5A-II schools.
Horizon has three key returning starters in middle infielders Dillon Everett and John Rubino and last year's staff ace Joey Danner, who was 6-2 with a 1.72 ERA in the regular season.
Chaparral has pitching depth with Preston Hill, Nathan Sherman and Will Abram. And shortstop James McDonald was an early signee with ASU and hit .353 last year.
Desert Mountain has a trio of outstanding hitters back in infielder Taylor Lindsey (.573), catcher Adam Sonabend (.417) and first baseman Hunter Thompson (.386). Cam Teich is the top pitcher back and hit .348.
Pinnacle returns a high-powered offense with five regulars sporting .400 or better averages from last year led by catcher Taylor Mark (.455), Michael Vaughn (.481) and Jake Winters (.448). The top returning pitcher is Steve Casey, who sported a 5-3 record.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Taylor Lindsey, Sr., IF, Desert Mountain -- Might be hard-pressed to top last year's offensive numbers of .573 BA, 18 HR, 73 RBIs. Headed to ASU in the fall.
Jaycob Brugman, Sr., OF-P, Desert Vista -- Great speed, glove and a bat to match. 15 HR, 49 RBIs and 15 SB last season hitting leadoff. Signed with Brigham Young
Ryan Casillas, Sr. C-1B, Hamilton -- Set for third varsity season with big bat. Hit .451 with 13 HR, 41 RBIs last year. On his way to University of Arizona.
Cole Gleason, Jr., IF-P, Red Mountain -- Had a nice year for a sophomore in 2009, batting .462, 12 HR and 34 RBIs. Figures to be staff ace this season.
D.J. Peterson Sr., IF, Gilbert -- Whacked the ball all over the yard last year and a bunch of times out of the yard. Hit .408 with 17 HR and 36 RBIs.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Apache Junction: Mike Davalos, Sr., OF
Arcadia: Thomas Schellhardt, Jr., P; Jake Macwilliam, Sr. SS
Chaparral; James McDonald, Sr., SS; Preston Hill, Sr., P
Cactus Shadows: Logan Davis, Sr., P-IF
Corona del Sol: Trever Allen, Sr., SS
Desert Mountain: Adam Sonabend, Sr., C; Cam Teich, Sr., OF-P
Desert Ridge: Travis Flores, Sr., 3B; Taylor Kaczmarek, Sr.; 1B-P
Desert Vista: Matt Wehrli, Sr., P-OF; Shaun Chase, Jr., C-P
Dobson: Austin Emelity, Sr., P-3B
Gilbert: Colton Thomson, Sr., P; Hunter Herdt, Sr., P; Nathaniel Causey, C, Jr.; Tyler Kamtz, Sr., U
Hamilton: Jorge Flores, Sr., IF; Zak Johnson, Jr., P; Jake Andrews, Jr. P; James Farris, Sr., P
Higley: John Verdugo, Sr., OF
Mesa: Michael Horton, Sr., IF
Mesquite: Rocky High, Sr., P-OF; Zach Davies, Jr., P-SS; Jason Gonzales, Sr., OF
Mountain Pointe: Josh Alexander, Sr., OF; Kevin Cron, Jr., C; Jordan Kipper, Sr., U-P
Mountain View: Hayden Rogers, Jr. P
Perry: David Walker, Jr., IF
Queen Creek: Matt Schmit, Sr., P-IF
Red Mountain: T.J. Bennett, Sr., IF; Ryan Dean, Jr., C
Saguaro: Ryan Comford, Sr., SS; Kurt Jahnke, Sr., P-2B
Skyline: Trey Lang, Sr., OF; Mike Wesolowski, Sr., SS
Williams Field: Dylon Koch, Sr., P-SS
Scottsdale Quarterback Club Invitational -- Feb. 24-March 1 (various sites)
Adam Donnenfield Invitational -- Feb. 24-March 1 (various sites)
Desert Vista Invitational -- Feb. 26-27, March 5-6 (host Desert Vista)
Mesquite-Gilbert Invitational -- March 13-18 (host Gilbert and Mesquite)
Victory Classic Invitational -- March 15-18 (host Highland)
Big League Dugout National Invitational -- March 29-April 1 (host Horizon)
State tournaments -- First week in May, specific dates TBD