The Mountain Pointe offense was a known quantity coming into the 2014 baseball season.
Nearly every one of the projected starters had success at the varsity level in 2013 and the order of natural progression indicated they’d be even better the following year.
The pitching, however, was the one with all of the unknown variables.
Only Jorge Carrazco had vast varsity experience so while Pride coach Brandon Buck knew he had talented arms heading into the season they hadn’t really been counted on for big innings for Mountain Pointe.
So with one game remaining in the regular season it has been the pitching staff that has been the key to the Pride being in line for a top eight seed in the Division I state playoffs.
“In those games that the offense hasn’t been strong our pitching has been carrying us,” Pride coach Brandon Buck said. “This is the most runs (eight against Desert Vista) we have given up in a while. They’ve come out and done everything we’ve asked them to do.
“Their job is to throw strikes, not walk anyone and make teams beat us offensively.”
The Pride entered Thursday’s action against Corona del Sol at 14-8 overall and No. 5 in the state power rankings with a 11-4 record.
Mountain Pointe had lost four of five, all by one run, as the offense hit only .308 through the first 23 games. In three of those defeats, the offense scored two runs or less including being shutout by Chandler.
Through it all the pitching staff, led by Carrazco, senior Tristan Chavez, junior Garvin Alston and senior Peyton Holm, has been pretty solid with an ERA of 2.90 through 23 games while holding the opposition to a batting average of .216.
“We come in here and get the job done,” said Carrazco, who is 4-2 on the year as the No. 1 starter. “We want to give the offense a chance to get some runs on the board for the win. We do what we can, get some outs and let the defense get some outs.”
The four pitchers have different styles and approaches, but find a way to get the defense back into the dugout.
Carrazco (2.87 ERA through 39 innings) is the bulldog with some sink on his ball that keeps the infield busy, while Chavez (2-2. 2.40 ERA) has natural movement that keeps catcher Christian Bitar on his toes, Alston (3-0, 1.31) is a power arm from the left side and Holm (0-1, 4 saves, 2.46 ERA) has a good cut to his pitches that bores in on the hitter’s hand.
“They all have different movement,” Bitar said. “I just have to be ready for anything, but they all have been really good this year.”
Mountain Pointe has played three games a week the last three weeks and played four games in three days at the end of March during the National High School Invitational in North Carolina.
It has forced the Pride to lean on that pitching depth and should only prepare them for what’s ahead in the double elimination state tournament.
“Having three starters who you know are going to come out and be strong makes it a lot easier to piece everything else together,” Buck said. “Then having Holm in the back end brings it all together. He has been nails all year.
“As a coach and as a team, when you know you can put a guy on the mound and you know he is going to throw strikes that’s huge.”
It should lead to another extended run in the postseason for Mountain Pointe, which has at least made it to the Final Four in four of the last six seasons.
“Having pitching depth is crucial,” Carrazco said. “We have a lot more depth than last year and there is a lot more confidence because we are not one of those teams relying on one guy. There are a lot more guys to fill in the holes.”
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