The crack of the bat, the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the perfectly lined chalked baselines, everything that makes springtime in Arizona the best time of the year is upon us – baseball and softball season.
The 17 members of the Maricopa High School varsity baseball team along with the 18 members of the varsity softball team have waited for this week since returning from the holiday break.
The baseball team started playing Wednesday in the four-day Tomas Pinon Tournament in Casa Grande where they will take on Marana High School, Arizona Charter Academy and host team Casa Grande Union High School in consecutive days.
New head coach Andrew Pollak said he looks to get the Rams back into contention after a 12-13-1 overall and 9-9 in its league 2013 season. Pollak is a former catcher at Arizona State University and brother of NFL lineman, Mike Pollak.
The team includes 12 seniors this season along with three juniors. Two sophomores, Nate Ford and Tyler Rapp also made the cut. Ford along with junior Joel Silva were both promoted from the junior varsity this season and will split time behind the plate. Rapp, not only played for the varsity squad as a freshman, but also was second on the team in at-bats with 71. He also made six pitching appearances garnering two wins.
Senior pitchers Dillon Moran and Dallas Speer will return for their final season on the mound for the Rams along with Tristan Hartley and Michael Gunter. Leading hitter Sean Dugan graduated last year but seniors Michael Gunter, Michael Ashe, Dillon Moran and Bernardo Juarez swing big bats as well.
The Rams varsity softball team traveled a bit farther than their male counterparts when they started play Thursday in the Sun Blast Tournament at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, a far-reaching Phoenix suburb to the north.
The ladies face Gila Ridge from Yuma today, then a doubleheader against La Joya Community from Avondale and Xavier College Preparatory from Phoenix on Saturday.
Head coach Chris Ansley returns for his fourth season and is looking to improve on the 15-12 record from last year. Making up the varsity squad this year are seven seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and a freshman in Kayla Martinez.
Leading the Rams this season are junior infielder Isabel McCloskey who finished the 2013 season with batting average of .471 in 19 games. McCloskey also knocked out four homeruns as well as 19 RBIs and two doubles in her 39 at-bats. Senior Chelsea Trejo, who played in 26 of 27 games last year also carried a big bat, hitting .327 with 18 hits including three doubles and a home run.
Additional returning seniors this season are Madison Moncel, Madison Byrd, Rosie Naranjo and Sydnee Akers.
Moncel and Byrd started 26 and 25 games respectively last season. Moncel had a solid season hitting .373 with 19 hits and 18 RBI in 51 at-bats. Byrd is the only returning player that hit both a triple and a home run for the Rams last year while registering 14 hits
and 15 RBI. Naranjo played in 21 games last year with a respectable .297 batting average. Akers’ experience will also be an asset in the dugout.
Senior newcomers Kaylee Darnall and Chelsea Jones will provide maturity and leadership.
On the mound for the Rams will be returning junior, Victoria Andrade (5-3). Andrade started nine game and maintained a solid 1.95 ERA over 13 appearances. Andrade threw five complete games including one shutout. Her strikeout-to-walk ratio was also admirable at 45:14.
Joining Andrade on the mound this year will be sophomores Yasmin Santa Cruz and Amber Cramer.