Tyler Viza has the stuff to be No. 1, but the Desert Vista senior right-hander has something else pushing him to be Thunder’s ace.
The connection Viza has with his teammates drives him to be successful just as much as locating his 88 mph fastball.
“You do whatever it takes to win for this team,” he said. “You have to do the little things right and that’s what I try to do for my teammates.”
Viza is doing something right.
He has been one of Division I’s most dominating pitchers statistically. Heading into this week’s action, Viza was 3-1 with a 0.86 ERA in nine games, including five starts, totaling 48 2/3 innings. He had 27 strikeouts and 11 walks as opponents hit .198 off him.
Against Mountain Pointe last week, he gave up only three hits but two of them were home runs in a 2-0 loss. He made two pitches and it cost him, but Viza still was impressive in limiting a pretty good lineup in a six-inning complete game, his third of the year.
“The Viza kid is a very good pitcher and he was able to locate his fastball in really well,” Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. “We stuck with it and got to him late, but he was on top of his game.”
Viza is heading to Utah next fall thanks, in part, because of the performance he had this summer in the Area Code Games in California.
The success he had over the summer has carried over to this spring. He learned over the years that he isn’t going to put up huge strikeout numbers so getting outs is all that matters.
“Mentally, I am stronger and better prepared,” he said. “At Desert Vista we preach throwing strikes and let them hit the ball. We have defenders for a reason.”
The breakout season by Viza is typical of a senior ready to take the next step. There are only so many innings left in his high school career and Viza is making sure he leaves a mark.
“He has gotten better and he is much tougher mentally,” Thunder coach Stan Luketich said. “He works through jams better and pitches well with runners on base. He is getting better each time out.”
Viza, who also plays first base and is hitting .300 (12 for 40) with a home run and seven RBIs, was more interested in talking about the team’s success.
The Thunder entered this week’s action at 16-5 and ranked in the top 10 in the power rankings. Assuming there isn’t a complete collapse the Thunder won’t have to fight to get into the postseason this year.
The Thunder can play hard and lose the next couple of weeks instead of having to grind through every inning.
“We don’t look too far ahead,” said Viza, who went 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in 11 games (two starts) as a junior. “If we don’t have a game we practice hard and we play our games hard. If you do that, good things are going to happen.”
It’s a philosophy that goes back to his thinking when he steps on the mound. The Thunder are a cohesive unit and they play for each other. The thought of letting each other down is a driving force.
“We are a really close team and we are not selfish,” he said. “We do everything for each other. When you are standing in the middle of the diamond and you look back and see those guys, you know you have a responsibility to them and a job to do.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.