Young players become focus after season ends - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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Young players become focus after season ends

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Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014 8:13 am

The high school season on the diamond came to an end prematurely, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few gems this year.

It’s hard to see it that way sometimes with the defeats ending the season so abruptly.

The Mountain Pointe baseball players thought they’d be playing long into the Division I postseason, but it ended on Tuesday when the Pride, seeded sixth, managed just three hits in a home loss to No. 22 Gilbert.

The season began with high expectations and a national ranking. They played in the National High School Invitational in North Carolina to bring a team with 16 seniors, nine of whom are heading off to play college ball, with plenty of history together even closer.

Then it ends with the tying run on third base.

“We graduate 16 guys,” Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. “This is a very, very special group. You don’t normally see 16 boys come on to a baseball team. They’re going to be missed, but they’ve left a great legacy.”

The talent was there to make a much deeper run into the playoffs rather than being knocked out in the second round with a 0-1 record, but for whatever reason the team had its struggles down the stretch, losing several one-run games.

The end is here, but plenty of positives came out of the 16-10 season.

Senior shortstop Cole Tucker proved yet again — just ask all the scouts who regularly attended games — that he is one of the top players in the state and it should prove true when he goes in the top rounds in the MLB draft in June.

He finished the year hitting .400 (34 for 85) with 30 runs, eight doubles, four triples, five home runs, 30 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in as many attempts, but as always with Tucker it is about his defense and approach to the game that separates him from everyone else.

While the Pride had a senior-laden team, there was a glimpse into the future in left-hander junior Garvin Alston, who is committed to the University of Arizona and the Pride’s quarterback in the fall.

He went 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 26 1/3 innings as Alston showed the power arm that got him a scholarship offer before he ever threw a varsity pitch.

The Desert Vista softball team knows all about potential after a quality season that ended on Tuesday when the 17th-seeded Thunder lost 8-6 to No. 1 Gilbert.

Desert Vista played nearly all underclassmen who were brought along by first-year coach K’Lee Arredondo and senior Michaela Duarte, who was a steadying influence with her style of play.

The Thunder laid the foundation for what should be a bright future by exposing the young players to the playoffs, including a 4-1 win over No. 16 Highland in the first round, and were challenged by playing the state’s top seed.

Freshmen Kaylee Dietrich, MacKenzie Moore, Kiara Kennedy and sophomore Brooke Hughes are some of the key players that helped the Thunder to a 12-14 season. The record wasn’t great, but the strides that were made are immeasurable.

“I definitely think we are one heck of a team,” Arredondo said. “I think we lost some of the games — we beat ourselves — and I do think we are a very outstanding team and we have a lot of potential for the future.”

Mountain Pointe softball has been waiting on the its youth movement to pay off as Ana Howard, Hannah Hoban and Kristen McCann did their part this season to help the Pride to a 12th seed, but it didn’t translate into postseason success after being upset in the first round 7-4 by No. 20 North Canyon.

Howard hit .417 with 22 runs and 21 RBIs as a sophomore, while Hoban, a junior catcher, had a great year hitting .515 with 24 runs, with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 45 RBIs, and McCann, a junior pitcher, was nearly as good at .504 with 16 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 26 RBIs.

The Desert Vista baseball team was a senior dominated team as well, but a couple of players will be the key to the program replacing the eight seniors who played nearly every day.

Junior third baseman and pitcher Zach Hardy, who hit .400 and drove in 20, and sophomore Alex Farina, who hit .379 with 14 RBIs, watched this senior class and will continue the Thunder way.

“They carried on the tradition and fought until the end,” Thunder coach Stan Luketich said of the seniors.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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