High School : : General
Monday, February 18, 2019

An Oasis in the Vegas Desert

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Aaron Roberts (Desert Oasis HS Baseball

2019 Perfect Game High School Preview Index

If it is indeed true that “teamwork makes the dream work” then Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas – with a baseball team that has stayed together and played together pretty much non-stop through 2018 and now into 2019 – is almost certainly living the dream.

The Diamondbacks are coming off a 2018 high school spring season in which they made a run into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) Class 4A Sunset Region semifinals and a summer season in which they made a run all the way to the championship game of the American Legion World Series.

With most of the key players from that team back in camp this year, Desert Oasis will open play next month at No. 22 in the Perfect Game High School (PGHS) Preseason National Top 50 Rankings and as the No. 1-ranked team in the PGHS Southwest Region (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah).

“Obviously, we’ve had some talented guys that have come through here, but we try to instill some core stuff into our kids, and that’s just a work ethic,” seventh-year head coach Paul Buboltz told PG last week. “We try not to take days off; we try to work as hard or harder than anybody else is that’s also trying to do this. I feel like we have a pretty good program because we’ve got some kids that have bought into what we’re trying to do.”

The 2018 spring and summer seasons were really quite remarkable for these Desert Oasis players. The DOHS Diamondbacks were the undisputed kings off the rugged NIAA 4A Sunset-Southwest League after completing their conference slate with an unblemished 18-0 mark. They finished 30-5 overall after losses to Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman – the latter a team it had beaten twice during the regular season – in the NIAA 4A Sunset Region playoffs.

Most of the Desert Oasis players then spent the summer playing for the Buboltz-coached Las Vegas Aces while representing Las Vegas American Legion Post 40. The Aces won the Region 8 championship played in Denver in early August and then finished as runner-up at the American Legion World Series played the third week of August in Shelby, N.C.

“As either Desert Oasis or the Las Vegas Aces … we’re pretty much doing it the year around,” Buboltz said. “These guys are getting a lot of baseball, a lot of practice, the weight-room work; everything they’re getting comes through Desert Oasis.

“It’s definitely a benefit to be able to do what we do,” he added. “It helps out tremendously, and it gets the guys to really play well together.”

Corner-infielder/right-hander Aaron Roberts is one of the top seniors on this year’s DOHS roster, and he was pivotal in the success both the Diamondbacks and the Aces enjoyed in 2018. He certainly appreciates having had the opportunity to play with his high school buddies all through the summer, and even into the fall and winter.

“It helps the team chemistry, for sure,” he told PG. “It gets us much needed repetition playing together as a team, and that’s what Coach Buboltz emphasizes a lot, sticking together with the team and getting real game reps over the summer. It’s a really good experience for the players and traveling all across the country to play is something we won’t forget for the rest of our lives.”

The 2019 Desert Oasis roster features 10 seniors, which puts the D’backs in a great place before the first pitch is even thrown. It’s a group led by the corner-infielder/right-hander Roberts, right-hander/corner-infielder DJ Jefferson, catcher Parker Schmidt and left-hander/outfielder Josh Sharman, a high-flying quartet that is already on the national radar.

Jefferson is a Southern California signee who PG pegs as the No. 1 overall prospect in Nevada in the class of 2019 and No. 96 nationally. Roberts, a California recruit, is ranked Nos. 2/99 and he joined Jefferson on the PGHS Southwest Region Dream Team released last week. Schmidt is a top-500 national prospect who has signed with Oregon and Sharman is a top-550 who is on board at hometown Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).

And if that’s not enough firepower in the  bunker, Buboltz got some help from outside the program during the offseason. Seniors Campbell Holt and Tyler Montoya – both left-handed pitchers/outfielders – are now at the school, Holt moving in from Torrey Pines HS in San Diego and Montoya coming over from Las Vegas Arbor View HS. Holt, like Jefferson, has signed with USC, Montoya with Northwest Florida State College.

“They’ve already clicked with us; the camaraderie is already there,” Roberts said. “They bring a lot of energy to the team that was much-needed. Campbell is a really good guy, Tyler is a really good guy and they’re amazing athletes, so that’s going to help us ten-fold.”

Back on Nov. 14, signing day, a reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal asked Buboltz about his five D-I signees:

“It just doesn’t happen overnight,” Buboltz told the reporter. “It’s summer. It’s fall. It’s winter. It’s overnight. It’s in the weight room. It’s the regular season. And it’s in the classroom. It’s just a special moment for us and for these kids. Having five guys in one class is pretty amazing. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen to us again.”

 

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THE NIAA 4A SUNSET-SOUTHWEST BASEBALL LEAGUE
is one of the strongest in big-school leagues in Nevada, with perennial national power Bishop Gorman HS also occupying a seat at the table. To run through what was a double round-robin schedule undefeated like the D’backs did last season borders on unthinkable.

“It’s a super competitive league with the teams that we play,” Buboltz said. “We’re only playing everybody once this year so every game is meaningful; every league game counts. It’s very, very important for the seedings for the playoffs, so it is like a mini state tournament as we go along.”

He also pointed out that the league on the other side of Las Vegas – the 4A Southern-Northwest League – is also very competitive. It features defending state championship Palo Verde along with traditional powers like Arbor View, Centennial and Bonanza (the Cubs’ Kris Bryant’s old school).

“They always bring something to the table, which is good; you don’t just want to roll through everyone,” Roberts said of the Desert Oasis’ Southwest League foes. “It’s really good having good competition around us because it makes us better as a whole. Our program, I feel like, has done better throughout the years because of the repetition of playing the good competition.”

It has been well-documented how much big-time MLB talent has come out of Vegas just in the decade with guys like Bryant, Bryce Harper and Joey Gallo gaining fame and fortune. Buboltz said the metropolitan area can no longer be called a “hidden gem” as far as producing top prospects because scouts have long known about how fertile this area of the desert has been (think Greg Maddux).

As for the current players, they’re just going out and playing the games that are in front of them, while also looking back on past successes and maybe even what ended up as a turning point or two.

Last March 28, the Diamondbacks lost a game to Palisades HS at the Lions Tournament in Pacific Palisades, Calif., that dropped their season record to 11-3. After that loss, they rattled of 18 straight wins, a streak that didn’t end until they were upended by Palo Verde in the playoffs.

Included in that streak were five wins in four days (April 4-7) at the Bishop Gorman Desert Classic, a stretch that Roberts said helped define the season.

“We knew then that we had the grasp and that we were on a roll,” he said. “It carried over into the rest of the games we played through the whole year. … “I definitely do think that the 18-0 is going to help us out a lot this year. We know that we’re able to compete and succeed in our league and I think that’s going to carry over and help us get even further than we did last year.”

The one thing that has eluded Desert Oasis is winning a state championship, but it’s important to remember that the school is only 11 years old. At the same time, Buboltz said the lack of success the program has had in the NIAA playoffs isn’t something the coaching staff runs away from.

In fact, Buboltz said, he has hung-up some things on the wall of the locker room that addresses the somewhat small elephant in the room with the hope of getting his players’ attention.

Every team in every state that takes pride in what it’s doing goes into a season with winning a state championship as its primary goal while also understanding that it’s not going to be easy. It’s talked about in locker rooms and in clubhouses and in the case of the Desert Oasis Diamondbacks, it’s something they believe is attainable.

“Our initial message is (to outline) what our expectations are and how we’re going to try to get over that hump,” Buboltz said. “A lot of it this year is just trying to instill the discipline and hard work in everything we do, school-wise, weight room-wise, outside of school, we’re just trying to get them to be more disciplined and buy into what we’re doing. Hopefully that will carry over onto the field.”

While performing at the PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in June, the senior Jefferson had this to say: “We have a great program. One of our mottos is to stay humble and get after it, and that’s truly it. … We lost in the playoffs but we’re truly happy with the season we had (in 2018).”

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COACH BUBOLTZ IS THRILLED TO HAVE THE FIVE D-I SIGNEES ON HIS ROSTER and
noted that four of them are going to Pac-12 schools. There are only two D-I programs in Nevada – UNLV and UN Reno – and College of Southern Nevada in Vegas is the only prominent junior college. That limits the options for a kid who wants to stay home, but many of them, like Sharman, choose to do so.

The program receives a lot of support around the school, from the administration right on down to the student body. There’s a buzz when the baseball season rolls around and Buboltz reported that on signing day in November a good number of students gathered for a reception to watch the D-I guys ink their letters of intent.

“Not a lot of kids get a chance to play in a program like this,” Roberts said. “Coach ‘B’ runs a really good team and I’ve been on the team for the past four years now, and it’s just a really good program. You’ve got one of the best fields in the western United States, the coaching staff is great; everything is perfect.”

Buboltz said his “number-one goal” is simply to help his players enjoy what he hopes will be a memorable high school experience. If that leads to having an opportunity to further their baseball careers at the collegiate or professional level, well, that’s just gravy. If they come back to visit having established themselves in the “real world” outside of baseball, well, that works just fine, too.

And so, what about that lofty national ranking Perfect Game has bestowed on the Diamondbacks during this preseason? Is it something the players are even aware of? And, if so, is it something they've embraced?

“When we saw that Perfect Game came out with us 18th in the country, you should have seen the whole team talking about it and the excitement that we had,” Roberts said. “Going into our scrimmages throughout the week … we just felt like were (riding high) because Perfect Game had us ranked number-18.”

That answers that. It certainly appears this year’s seniors on the Desert Oasis baseball team have positioned themselves to end their high school experiences on a super high note. Roberts said winning an NIAA 4A state championship would be the topper and he feels like all the pieces are in place for that to become a reality.

“It’s good to have the veteran core coming back,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of the players that were there last year to help the younger kids that didn’t get a chance to play last year. We learned a lot and there were definitely things we needed to improve on. …

“We do feed off each other,” he added. “There’s a lot of energy out there; we all know what we’re capable of and what others are capable of. So, we just go out there and take care of business.”

So, it is true after all: Teamwork can make the dream work, with just the right amount of effort ...



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