The Mountain Pointe baseball program left Tuesday to spend about a week in North Carolina playing in a nationally-renowned tournament.

And the results might be one of the least important aspects of the trip.

The Pride is off to a 9-2 start, have one of the deepest pitching staffs in the state, if not the nation, have state title aspirations and expect to win every time they take the field.

That doesn’t change this week at the third annual National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C., when 16 of the country’s best programs are invited to the USA Baseball complex to play a faux national championship tournament.

“When you look at programs like Chaparral, Horizon and Brophy and other schools that have won so many state championships, it is very humbling to be the second team from Arizona to be invited considering the caliber of baseball played here,” Pride coach Brandon Buck said. “There is no way the teams (in the tournament) are going to be heads above the teams we play here.

“We are so prepared to go out and play well because of who we face in Arizona.”

Mountain Pointe opens the tournament on Wednesday against 12-0 Bishop Verot (Fla.) at 8 a.m. (MST). Verot has outscored its opponents 117-8 and the Pride will start with right-hander hander Jorge Carrazco (1-1, 3.98 ERA).

The play on the field is what it is. They’ll either stay in the championship side of the bracket or drop to the consolation. Mountain Pointe has the talent and pedigree to play with anyone, but so do the other 15 teams.

The key to the week, which gets started with a 5:30 a.m. flight on Tuesday, will be getting better on the field, forging even deeper relationships with the team bonding, and community service deeds like volunteering at a children’s hospital.

“We are going to be with each other for five straight days,” Buck said. “We have all-around good group of guys. The strong relationships are going to get stronger and the weaker ones will get better. It’s a really cool deal.

“Plus, we are basically playing in a state tournament-type atmosphere and this is a bench mark test. We’ll come back stronger in every aspect of being a team, know where we have to get better and get ready for the main playoffs.”

And if they can do it while playing some winning baseball against some of the best teams the country has to offer then that’s even better.

Mountain Pointe has two players — Ernie de la Trinidad and Cole Tucker — who have played at the USA Baseball complex on national teams, talent throughout the lineup and confidence to comeback when down by a few runs.

“We are to play our best against the best,” said pitcher Peyton Holm, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in 12 2/3 innings. “We’ve been waiting for this trip and we want to represent Arizona the best we can. It’s a great chance to play at a great facility and get better.”

De la Trinidad, who leads the team in average (.448), runs (15) and doubles (t-6), said the experience will only focus their intentions on and off the field.

“We are a pretty close team with good chemistry already,” he said. “We are going to get better playing against this level of competition and it’s going to be something we’ll always remember.”

Buck, whose team has a team average of .334 and ERA of 2.28, said the team is ready to compete against anyone the Pride comes across in North Carolina.

“We have to make sure to take care of business,” he said. “We are going to go out, have some fun, and enjoy the experience. We’ve been very fortunate to play some very good opponents before we left, especially our last three games. Playing that caliber of baseball and winning those games sets us up really well heading out there.”

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

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