When the Mountain Pointe High School seniors graduated last Thursday, some notable student-athletes were able to walk the stage with extra feathers in their caps.
Just prior to the final days of school, the Arizona Interscholastic Association honored several local players for their outstanding achievements on the field, which included some of the Pride’s top athletes.
Tempe Union High School District also saluted several athletes, naming Isela Enriquez and Antoine Kepczyk scholar athletes; Anna Morse and Kenny Churchwell master athletes and Gabriella Leo and Delano Selgado athletes of the year.
The Mountain Pointe softball team returned to the state tournament for the first time in three years. And for that, the team can thank a trio of seniors who stayed hot at the dish all season – Danielle Farinas, Veronica Chavez and Ilyiana Vacaneri powered the Pride’s potent offense.
A year after compiling huge numbers at the plate, Farinas was somehow able to improve in the batter’s box this season. She hit .560, with six home runs and 41 RBIs, leading all Pride players in those categories.
Farinas was also a rock on the mound. Her value is hard to quantify, but the AIA placed her on the All-Conference Second Team. It was the highest honor for a Pride softball player this year.
Right behind Farinas in nearly every category was Chavez, who collected 42 hits in 94 at-bats, good for a .447 batting average. Chavez was one of only three players to appear in every game for the Pride this season.
Vacaneri put up five homers to go along with a .473 batting average. She finished second on the team with 42 runs scored, a valuable statistic that is often overlooked.
Both Chavez and Vacaneri were named to the All-Region First Team by the AIA.
While the MP baseball team may have been inconsistent season, the season was anything but disappointing for sophomore Carson Tucker.
The infielder earned All-Conference First Team honors for his incredible work in the field and at the plate. Tucker was an effective hitter all year long, highlighted by a 3-for-3, 4 RBI performance in a win over Westview.
“His work ethic is pretty crazy,” said Pride Head Coach Matt Denny. “I don’t think he wants to be the best on the team or in the state. I really think he wants to be the best ever. I expect huge things from him.”
Pitcher Nick Wallerstedt just missed out on the first team honors, but found a home on the All-Conference Second Team.
He shined on the hill after a rocky start to the season, securing three wins and totaling a 4.34 ERA.
“I knew once he figured out command on the mound, he was just going to be fantastic,” Denny said.
But it was at the plate where Wallerstedt really stood out. The Corona transfer hit .408, with 32 RBIs, earning high praise from his head coach.
“He might have been our most consistent guy. He was a guy who could steal bases when he got on. He’s a really versatile player,” Denny said. “I don’t think he has scraped the surface on what he can do on the baseball field.”
The Pride didn’t quite meet Denny’s expectations, but the team managed to make a run at the end of the year to secure a place in the postseason. A blowout win in the play-in game against Cibola showed what this team is capable of accomplishing next season.
“I’m never satisfied with the season unless we’re holding up a trophy, but I think that run at the end of the year gave us a spark,” he said.
Contact Brian Benesch at 480-898-5630 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AZBenesch.