Mountain Pointe High’s baseball program is on a mission to compete for a 6A title.
“We have a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We are ready to prove some people wrong,” Pride coach Matt Denny said. “Our guys are hungry.”
Denny is in his third season leading the Pride. They reached the 6A tournament in his first two but were knocked out in the first round of both.
Since its state-title run in 2011, the closest that Mountain Pointe has come to another was 2013 and 2016, when it was among the final eight, before Denny arrived after a successful run at Greenway High.
Denny attributed the program’s recent struggles to a lack of depth, which he says isn’t an issue this season.
“I think we are a little bit deeper,” Denny said. “Talent wise, we have a lot of guys who produced last year.”
Senior right-handed pitcher Nick Wallerstedt, who signed with Arizona State in December, returns for his third varsity season.
Wallerstedt did it all for the Pride last year. He had a 4.34 ERA with 29 strikeouts and held opponent’s to a .288 batting average. At the plate, he hit .408 with 32 RBI and 3 home runs.
Teammates look to him as a leader, an expectation he’s had since his sophomore year when he took over at quarterback on the school’s football team.
“I think it transfers over pretty easily,” Wallerstedt said. “I just have to make sure I always lead by example on and off the field.”
Carson Tucker also returns for his third season. The junior infielder is regarded among the top players in Arizona’s 2020 class. He recently committed to the University of Texas.
Last season, Tucker hit .418 with 29 RBI and 2 home runs. He stole 6 bases.
“The past two years, we had one of the best offenses,” Tucker said. “This year, we have really good pitching. As long as we can keep putting up runs, we are confident in our defense to keep teams off the board.
“That will help us go a long way.”
Last season, sophomore utility player Ethan Long transferred from Mesquite High. This season, former Chaparral pitcher and infielder Joey Cammarata joins the Pride.
Just as Long did, Cammarata will sit out the first half of the season under Arizona Interscholastic Association transfer rules. The team is confident in his ability to make a strong impact when he becomes eligible.
“Joey works really hard,” Long said. “He’s a bulldog on the mound and a really good bat in the lineup. He is going to be big for us.”
Long was impressive last season in his 11 appearances. He hit .400 and had 16 RBI and 4 home runs – third-most on the team. His decision to transfer to Mountain Pointe was due in large part to Mesquite dropping to 4A last year from 5A.
Given his relationship with Tucker, playing for the Pride was an easy choice.
“Carson and I have played together since we were little,” Long said. “When I was able to play, the team welcomed me with open arms and that helped me start producing. I’m really happy to be here.”
Mountain Pointe opened this season with a 2-0 loss to Red Mountain, but followed it with an extra-inning victory over Perry. A loss to defending 6A state champ Sandra Day O’Connor had the Pride at 1-2.
If there’s one thing they learned from years past, it is not to panic. It’s a long season.
“If we lose a game, we can’t have another come after that. Just learn from mistakes,” Wallerstedt said. “We have all of the talent in the world. We just need to stay strong mentally and give it our all every day.”