High School : : General
Thursday, March 31, 2011

HS Regional Preview: Southwest

Todd Gold         Ben Collman        
Perfect Game High School will releasing previews for each region in the coming weeks. The previews will be released two weeks prior to first regional rankings. The schedule is as follows:

 -Week of March 3

 (AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, TN) - March 10

 (CA, HI) - March 11

 (TX, OK- March 17

 (SC, NC, VA, MD, DC, WV, DE) - Week of March 21

Midwest (WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, KY) - Week of April 4

Great Plains (CO, MO, IA, MN, NE, KS, ND) - Week of April 4

Northeast (PA, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, VT, NH, ME)-Week of April 11

Northwest (WA, OR, ID, AK) - Week of April 11

Top Storylines

1. Arizona Home Run King Kevin Cron
Mountain Pointe’s Kevin Cron received a lot of attention last year and deservedly so. As a junior, Cron matched the Arizona state record for Home Runs in a season (22) while leading the Pride to the 5A Division I State Championship game.

Not content with a share of the single season record Cron got back to work launching baseballs into orbit when the 2011 season began. Cron currently leads the state with 13 Home Runs (through 16 games), four ahead of 2nd place (teammate Joey Curletta) and broke the career home run record with a pair of homers on March 25. 

Cron is the career record holder with 46 career bombs and is ahead of pace to break his own single season record. More importantly, he looks to get Mountain Pointe over the hump by leading them to their first state title in school history.
2. Bregman’s Power Surge
Coming off his sophomore campaign where he hit .500 in 84 ABs in 2010, Albuquerque Academy SS Alex Bregman continued his hot hitting over the summer and fall. He capped off a successful season of travel ball by earning MVP honors at the Pan-Am games in Mexico by leading Team USA to gold by hitting .564.

Over the offseason, Bregman got to work, getting bigger, stronger and faster. That offseason work has led to a power surge this season. Bregman currently has 6 Homeruns through his first 12 games of the season. Albuquerque Academy High School Head Coach Josue Ayala said of Bregman “his work ethic is remarkable, his desire is contagious and he makes the rest of our guys better.” Ayala noted that Bregman’s increased strength has been a key to the development of his power, as his doubles are now leaving the yard.

After hitting over.500 each of the past two high school seasons, Bregman is currently 25-for-41 (.609) in addition to his six Homers. He is a big reason why the Chargers are off to a 10-2 start.
3. The Great Southwest Shortstop Debate
While the aforementioned Bregman looks to be one of the best prospects in the region’s class of 2012, the Southwest has more than just one top prospect at Shortstop. Sierra Vista’s Jake Hager is the top ranked player in the state of Nevada.

The Arizona State commit announced his presence as a big time prospect at the 2010 Area Code games, and then cemented it at the 2010 WWBA World Championship last October. Hager showed good all around skills, he has a very high level bat and looks like he has a shot to stay at SS at the highest levels. His well rounded skill set should make him very attractive to MLB organizations when the June draft rolls around.

It will be fun to watch the development of each of these two highly talented ballplayers; they both have a chance to become very successful players at the highest levels.
4. Dynasties in the Desert
In each state in the region at least one team is defending back-to-back state championships. Spanish Fork has won back-to-back title in Utah, and look poised to stretch that streak to three this season (and possibly continue beyond). La Cueva has won three of the past five New Mexico titles, including 2010. Virgin Valley dominated has dominated 3A ball in Nevada.

But the biggest dynasty in the region has to be Bishop Gorman. The Gaels have now won 5consecutive championships, the second longest active streak in the nation. Gorman’s first year head coach Nick Day is very familiar with the pressures that come with such a streak, as a player on the 1993-1996 championship squads at Green Valley and an Assistant with Gorman the past few years he racked up a lot of experience of dealing with the pressure.
5. The Battle of Las Vegas
Bishop Gorman should face its most difficult challenge in trying to extend their state title streak this year, as they will have a lot of company at the top from several fellow Las Vegas teams. Rancho, Sierra Vista and Green Valley all look like serious threats to the streak.

Each of these teams is off to a strong start, Sierra Vista is 12-0, 11-2 Green Valley dropped a close one to Sierra Vista and 11-2 Rancho’s only losses are to those two teams. While Gorman looks like one of the best teams in the nation yet again, one of these other three could very well make a case to be in that group as well.

Top Teams (alphabetical order)

Albuquerque Academy
Albuquerque Academy is off to a 10-2 start to the year, building off their 18-8 campaign a year ago. They feature one of the best players in the state in SS Alex Bregman; they also boast ace RHP Brent Jones and sophomore C Tyler Buffett.
Bishop Gorman
The Gaels have an enormous target on their back as winners of five straight state championships. Nick Day will try to continue the streak as he takes over for previous coach Chris Sheff. Gorman looks to be arguably the top team in the state again this year, but the competition will be fierce.
Hamilton looks poised to make a deep run in the postseason this year after reaching the regional finals in 2010. Led by one of the top 2012 prospects in the state, Mitch Nay, the Huskies are 12-4 in spite of a very tough early season schedule. Ace Zak Johnson is one of the top pitchers in the state and they feature depth throughout their lineup. The Huskies look like arguably the best team in Arizona.
Don’t read too much into Horizon’s 7-5 record, they dropped a pair this week to nationally ranked teams in the best HS tournament in the nation; the Big League Dugout National Invitational. They’ve also lost to AZ contenders Brophy (11-5), Mesquite (15-1) and Saguaro (20-3); the defending champs’ brutal schedule will prove to be valuable come playoff time.
La Cueva
Most of the preseason predictions coming out of New Mexico pointed towards La Cueva capturing their 4thtitle in 6 years. The Bears opened up with a 16-0 season, seeming to prove those lofty expectations were accurate. A bad stretch where they lost three out of five found the Bears sitting at 3-3 and many began to wonder if the Bears were merely paper champions.

La Cueva has responded with five straight wins since then, an impressive run with a quality win over Volcano Vista and several huge blowouts. The Bears look to be on tract to contend for another state title.
Nobody went undefeated in the Scottsdale QB Club Invitational preseason tournament. Mesquite won the tourney after losing one game in pool play, and they haven’t lost since. At 15-1-1 the Wildcats are now the highest ranked team in Arizona (#25 in nation) thanks to an impressive 7-1 win over fellow power Hamilton in last week’s National Game of the Week.
Mountain Pointe
Arguably the best lineup in Arizona from top to bottom, the Pride are anchored by record setting slugger Kevin Cron whose prodigious power and advanced feel for hitting make him a serious threat every time he steps to the plate. One talent evaluator said that Cron is the most mature hitter to come through Arizona since current Mets 1B Ike Davis. The offense should be one of the best in the state; if the pitching can keep pace they have a chance to win the state title.
The defending 4A Division I champions are off to a 20-3 start this season and are currently riding a 16 game winning streak, dating back to March 5. OF Kyle Young is leading the team with 4 Home Runs, while hitting .449. RHP Travis Steinheiser has pitched very well for the Sabercats and currently boasts a 4-1 record with a 3.64ERA and 34 strikeouts to just 10 walks over 32 2/3 innings.
Sierra Vista
Jake Hager & Co. are looking really strong at 13-0, outscoring opponents 120-32 thus far. Hager is hitting .609 with 4 Home Runs, but the team’s current Home Run king is Scotty Tomassetti, who has 6. Somehow ace Blair Goldsack has the teams highest ERA, at 1.85, while striking out 33 compared to just 5 walks. It's safe to say that the Lions have proven they belong in the elite group of teams not only in Nevada, but the Southwest Region.

The question is; where in that elite group do they belong?
Spanish Fork
The Dons have won back to back state championships and even after the graduation of Adam Duke they remain one of the most talented teams in the nation. RHP/1B Kayden Porter (2-0, 2.28) looks like he has a chance to become one of the top players in the country, but he has plenty of help. Staff ace Brady Corless is 3-0 with a 1.62ERA. C Jarret Jarvis has been hitting really well this season, sporting a .690 average with 10 extra base hits in their first 9 games.

Notable Matchups
La Cueva @ Cleveland –April 5

In a clash of New Mexico state championship hopefuls, powerhouse La Cueva takes on All-American Blake Swihart and the 10-3 Cleveland Storm. 
Sierra Vista (NV) vs. Bishop Gorman (NV) -- April 9 & 30

It won’t be a matchup of undefeated teams, as Gorman lost a tough one to Downers Grove South in the loaded Big League Dugout National Invitational (before rebounding to win the pool). Sierra Vista is currently 12-0, and while these are not the only two contenders in Nevada, they look to be the favorites. You will be able to follow the April 9th game live as part of the Trip coverage.
Hamilton @ Mountain Pointe – April 20

Something has to give, Hamilton ace Zak Johnson has shown he can slow down just about any lineup in the state, Mountain Pointe has shown they can score runs against just about anybody. If the pitching lines up for Johnson to face the Pride it will be one of the more intriguing matchups of the season.
The last time these teams met was in the 2010 State Tournament, they could very well meet again in the 2011 tourney.
Pinnacle vs. Horizon –April 20 & 21

These two teams have very different records in spite of being similar in terms of talent (near top in the state). Pinnacle is 15-1 thanks to a mediocre schedule and pulling out some close games. Horizon is 7-5 thanks to playing an absolutely brutal schedule. This should be a good game between two very good teams.
Sierra Vista (NV) @Green Valley (NV) – May 4

Middle infield prospects will be the highlight of this matchup between Nevada contenders as Green Valley’s Brett Harrison and Sierra Vista’s Jake Hager will be a big attraction for MLB decision makers just a month before the draft.

PG High School Southwest Dream Team

C- Blake Swihart, Cleveland (NM), Sr.

1B- Kevin Cron, Mountain Pointe (AZ), Sr.

2B- Zach Quintana, Abror View (NV), Jr.

SS- Jake Hager, Sierra Vista (NV), Sr.

3B- Mitch Nay, Hamilton (AZ), Jr.

OF- Jordan Dunatov, Horizon (AZ), Sr.

OF- Cullen O’Dwyer, El Dorado (NM), Jr.

OF- Ryan Padilla, La Cueva (NM), Sr.

Util- Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (NV), Jr.

P- Kayden Porter, RHP, Spanish Fork (UT), Jr.

P- Zach Davies, RHP, Mesquite (AZ), Sr.

P- Zak Qualls, LHP, Rancho (NV), Sr.

P- Michael Howard, LHP, Prescott (AZ), Sr.

P- Eric Holdren, RHP, Rancho (NV), Sr.

Regional Best Tools

Best Hitter For Average: Alex Bregman, Albuquerque Academy (NM), Jr.

Best Hitter For Power: Kevin Cron, Mountain Pointe (AZ), Sr.

Best Baserunner: Tyler Booth, Millennium (AZ), Sr.

Best Defensive Catcher: Blake Swihart, Cleveland (NM), Sr.

Best Defensive Infielder: Jake Hager, Sierra Vista (NV), Sr.

Best Defensive Outfielder:  Jordan Dunatov, Horizon (AZ), Sr.

Best Infield Arm: Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (NV), Jr.

Best Outfield Arm: Ryan Padilla, La Cueva, Sr.

Best Fastball: Kayden Porter, RHP, Spanish Fork (UT), Jr.

Best Offspeed Stuff: Stephen Tarpley, LHP, Gilbert (AZ), Sr.

Best Command: Zach Davies, RHP, Mesquite (AZ), Sr.

Best Pitchability: 
Zach Davies, RHP, Mesquite (AZ), Sr.

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