Moving to a new conference isn’t the only rearranging Desert Vista’s baseball team is doing this season.
The Thunder has nine players back from a team that went 24-10 and made it to the semifinals of the state 5A-I playoffs last season.
But all except Matt Wehrli and Jaycob Brugman, senior outfielders and pitchers, are in new positions this season.
Senior Pat Hickey has moved from second base to third and junior Shaun Case has a home behind the plate after backing up catcher Sean Smedley and playing some first base last year.
Drew Fisher is among those players returning and replaces Hickey at second while junior Casey Thomas is at shortstop. Seniors Chandler Ticknor and Eric Brown are sharing first base with newcomer Hunter Rodriguez.
“Hickey and Chase aren’t new, but those positions are new to them,” said Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich. “And we’ve got a multitude of pitchers who have no varsity experience.”
Some of those pitchers received experience from three games in the Desert Vista baseball tournament last weekend when the Thunder went 1-2. The annual five-team tournament continues at Desert Vista this weekend.
Instead of facing longtime rivals such as Mountain Pointe and Tempe Corona del Sol at least three times during the regular season, Desert Vista gets a fresh look at other powerhouses, including Phoenix Brophy, Chandler Hamilton, Mesa, Mesa Red Mountain and Chandler.
“Every team in our region is new to us,” Luketich said, “but if we’re going to compete this season we’re going to have to show a little more fight.”
The Thunder will get to see Corona a couple of times this season, including at least once in the Spring Break Mesquite/Gilbert Invitational tournament and again in late April.
Desert Vista gets at least one shot at Mountain Pointe, too, and it will be on a little larger stage than usual.
The Thunder and Pride are scheduled to play under the lights April 15 in Mesa HoHoKam Stadium, spring training home of the Chicago Cubs.
A few days earlier, on April 8, the Thunder and Hamilton are scheduled to play at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Playing in a big ballpark is a good opportunity for the kids, and it’s fun for them to play at a place other than a high school field,” Luketich said. “Plus, we have playoffs on those big fields, but we have a long way to go before we can even think about that.”