Stan Luketich is a man of very few — but poignant — words.
So when talk turns toward expectations for the baseball season the only coach Desert Vista has known is a bit brief despite the fact the Thunder return some quality talent with several years of varsity experience.
“We are just trying to get better every day,” he said. “We are just regular guys.”
The Thunder, coming off a 20-win season, opened the year 3-0 and began this week 4-2 with retuning players like center fielder A.J. Valencia (.356 in 2013), shortstop Keenan Bartlett (16 RBIs most among returning players), second baseman Cullen Bottock (.352), first baseman Mike Popeck (.367) and designated hitter Garrison Schwartz (.346) leading the way.
Senior Kyle Gibbs is off to a hot start after struggling last year, while Pepperdine recruit Isaiah Deutsch will be heavily counted on after sitting out last year when he transferred from Brophy in order to play his senior year with kids he played with since little league.
In the early going the Thunder, who will play Corona del Sol at Chase Field the last week of the season, showed some resiliency with a couple of comeback wins.
“They fight and compete well,” he said. “Every team has an identity and you don’t know what it is going to be until you get into it and these guys are fighters.”
There is no getting around the expectations for Mountain Pointe this season as the Pride began the year as the preseason No. 1 for Division I and ranked nationally.
“We have goals of winning every inning,” Pride coach Brandon Buck said. “Our season isn’t going to be measured by whether or not we win a state championship. If we bust our tails, concentrate one pitch at a time and make the routine plays consistently we will get the Ws.”
The Pride began this week 5-2 and have a couple more weeks of action before traveling for the National High School Invitational March 26-28 at the USA Baseball training center in Cary, N.C.
It’s a big-time national event that will allow Mountain Pointe to represent Arizona baseball.
The Pride has the talent to match as eight players have committed to colleges including senior shortstop Cole Tucker, senior center fielder Ernie de la Trinidad and junior Garvin Alston, all of whom are headed to the University of Arizona.
First baseman Taylor Martin, catcher Christian Bitar, outfielder Bryce Redaja, outfielder Jake Alexander and pitcher Jorge Carrazco will also be heavily counted on as the Pride looks to make it to at least the semifinals again after making it to the Final Four four times in the last six seasons.
“We are going to do our best to control what we can control,” Buck said. “It’s what we’ve done in the past to be successful and we will continue to take that approach.”
Horizon Honors has a young team with only two seniors listed on the roster, but the Eagles are off to a decent start.
They’ve held their own, opening the year 3-2-1, in the Desert Classic Tournament in Chandler to start the season before heading into regular season games this week.
Senior Jack Kenzler played sparingly last season after getting in 20 games as a sophomore, while Cody Welty has played in 27 games over the last two seasons.
Juniors Bryce Pharr (.240) and Joe Holguin (.241) should be counted on as well, while sophomore Chase Edwards is the most accomplished returning hitter after posting good numbers (.367, 10 doubles, 14 RBIs) as a freshman.
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