It’s been 18 years since Desert Vista High’s program stood atop the prep baseball landscape in Arizona.
Under first-year coach Cody Brassfield last season, the Thunder exceeded expectations with a 20-10 record. A first-round playoff loss to eventual state champion Sandra Day O’Connor ended the season.
Now, as Brassfield enters his second season, he and a plethora of seniors are ready to flip the script.
“Last year, our kids had no expectations,” Brassfield said. “We weren’t expected to play up to that level. This year is different. We have guys that had some good seasons last year and are expected to have better seasons this year.
“We’ve got a really good group of seniors that are mature and are good leaders. That will really help us.”
Desert Vista opened this year with a loss to talented Red Mountain but three days later knocked off Hamilton – one of the favorites to win the 6A title.
The win over the Huskies came during the 19th annual Desert Vista High School Baseball Tournament, meaning it didn’t count toward the team’s power-points ranking, according to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Still, it was significant to the Thunder’s senior class.
“That win was huge for us,” senior outfielder Jack Malone said. “Beating them is something we haven’t been able to do in a long time for DV.
“I think it just shows that if we play our best game we can beat anyone in the state.”
It was the first time that Malone – who was voted among Desert Vista’s four captains for the second year in a row – and the seniors had defeated Hamilton in their four-year careers.
The momentum carried over to the Thunder’s match up with Mesquite. Desert Vista won again.
Then came a dose of reality. The Thunder lost four straight, two of which counted toward their ranking. They went through a similar skid last season, losing three straight early before turning around.
Last year, it was a win over Brophy that put Desert Vista back on track.
“We just need to play it pitch by pitch,” said Kaeden Moore, another senior co-captain. “We need to all stay in the game and not worry about any other games except the one we are in.”
Moore signed to play baseball at Gateway Community College next season. Malone signed with Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego. Both acknowledge that having their college decisions behind them allows them to focus on this season.
“I think I can speak for both of us when I say we are just trying to have fun this year,” Malone said. “We both want to step into this leadership role and make sure everyone brings it every day.
“We just want to do something special that this program hasn’t done in a while.”
Expectations remain high. The Thunder have experienced what it takes to beat one of the top programs in the state. They were confident after the win over Hamilton that they found the ingredients to sustain success. Now, it’s about execution.
“We were able to get over the mental hump of being able to compete with a team like that,” Brassfield said. “It’s going to be hard to replicate that against them at the end of the season when it counts the most, but we need to continue to get better and keep the same energy in order to be successful throughout the season.”