Kevin Cron and Shaun Chase have logged countless innings with and against each other over the years.
Whether it was on the Ahwatukee Dodgers when their stirrups were bigger than their legs or later when they were opposing catchers for Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, baseball has always brought them together.
Now, it could possibly happen again.
Only this time it is on a bigger stage as Cron and Chase began their shot of making the College World Series on Friday.
They are both true freshmen getting their first taste of postseason baseball at the collegiate level and if all goes well maybe these two Ahwatukee Foothills sluggers will face each other once again.
Cron is playing a prominent role at Texas Christian where he is getting stronger after dealing with a back issue early in the year. Chase started hot for Oregon, but struggled the rest of way as the Ducks finished third in the Pac-12.
The regional play started on Friday with TCU at Texas A&M and two other teams, while Oregon hosted three teams.
The winners advance to a super regional and those winners advance to the CWS.
“I got a chance to see my brother (C.J.) play in a regional (for Utah) when he was a freshman and I wanted to be part of it,” Cron said before the second-seeded Horned Frogs started play against No. 3 Ole Miss on Friday. “I want to play for a championship and we are playing good enough to get there.”
Cron missed about 20 games with a back injury, but is fully healthy now and is helping TCU at first base and designated hitter.
Overall, he entered the weekend hitting .366 (45 of 123) with 14 runs scored, seven doubles, three home runs and 26 RBIs. He is third on the team in slugging percentage (.496) and second in on-base percentage (.412).
“There were adjustments I had to make,” Cron said. “In college the pitchers have four pitches and they can throw them all for strikes. I’ve been keying in on how they are trying to get me out and I have a better feel for it now.”
Heading into this weekend, Cron said the best part of his entire college experience was the team’s trip to the Dominican Republic in the fall.
“It was an incredible trip,” said Arizona’s all-time single season and career home run leader. “We got to see where all of the players from there who make the major leaguers come from and the fields they started out playing on.”
Chase had a different path as he was originally expected to head to Arizona after graduating from Desert Vista, but did so with his eye on Oregon.
Eventually, the Ducks had a couple of players leave the program after being drafted last June and it opened up a scholarship for Chase.
“Oregon was my No. 1 choice and it eventually worked out,” Chase said. “It was a great honor to get the chance to play at a great school.”
Chase started his career with a great opening weekend as he hit .400 and had a home run as the Ducks won three of four at Hawaii. Since then it has been mostly a struggle, but Chase keeps contributing the best he can.
“I had a fast start, but after that I was trying too hard to show the coaches I belonged in the lineup,” he said. “It led to some bad habits and I had trouble adjusting.”
Overall, Chase entered the weekend, as the Ducks host fourth-seeded Austin Peay, No. 3 Indiana State and No. 2 Cal State Fullerton, hitting .178 (13 of 78) in 25 games with 10 runs, five doubles, a triple, two home runs and nine RBIs.
“I was in a downfall for a while trying to prove myself,” Chase said. “It was a struggle but my teammates were always there to pick me up.”
While his numbers might not be what he wants, the experience, especially the postseason, will be invaluable as he moves forward with his career at Oregon.
“The coaches are always pushing me and shaping me to be a better baseball player,” Chase said. “I’ll get there. It’s why I came here and I will do anything to help this team get to the World Series.”
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