PG High School previews the Arizona State Playoffs.
In part I PG looks at the top teams, top players, and makes its’ picks for both divisions of Class 5A with the second round getting underway this afternoon. Check back later in the week as we break down the other classifications playoffs, which get underway this weekend.
5A Division I (Bracket)
- The top seed in the bracket announced their presence early on by winning the Scottsdale QB Club Invitational tournament to open the season. At 25-3 the Wildcats few losses were to quality opponents and they have several marquee wins on their resume, including knocking off Hamilton 7-1 in the National Game of the Week
- The most dangerous offense in the tournament, the Pride set a single season record with 79 regular season Home Runs as a team. The middle of their order (Kevin Cron and Joey Curletta) combined to crush 42 Home Runs this season, finishing 1st and 2nd in the state respectively. They will be a tough out and if their pitching gets hot they should be holding the trophy.
- Very well rounded club, have a good one-two punch on the mound in Jake Andrews
and Zak Johnson
, an intimidating power presence in 3B Mitch Nay
and plenty of senior leadership.
Players to Watch
Kevin Cron, C/RHP, Mountain Pointe- The most prolific power hitter in Arizona high school baseball history tied the single season HR mark last year before breaking it this year (also the career leader). Will also be counted on to shore up the only chink in the Pride armor: pitching.
Zach Davies, RHP, Mesquite- While his 90 mph fastball velocity doesn't quite blow hitters away, his advanced pitchability and good command allow him to be very effective and he will be very important to the Wildcats' title hopes.
David Graybill, OF/RHP, Brophy Prep- Key member of a team that features just six seniors on the roster, Graybill, a Junior led the team in Home Runs (8) and will be leaned on heavily as a pitcher as well.
Mesquite- The top seed has a tough draw with 9-seed Brophy Prep in the second round and will likely have to face Hamilton in the next round. The #1 seed turned out to be more of a burden than a reward this year.
Salpointe Catholic- The Lancers are happy to be in the second round but they have a brutal draw, facing the best lineup in the state in Mountain Pointe. They will likely have to battle their way back from the losers bracket.
Mountain View- Hamilton is a very tough draw in the second round, if they win they'll have the privelege of running into Mesquite or Brophy and a loss means they may have to fend off a solid Highland team with revenge on its mind. It won't be easy.
Gilbert- A very tough 6-seed, the Tigers record doesn't indicate just how talented this team really is. They've beaten five consecutive playoff teams coming down the stretch (12 of last 13 games played were against playoff teams). Having Desert Ridge sent to the losers bracket early makes their road a bit easier.
Brophy Prep- Brophy's lack of playoff experience will hurt this young and talented team, but the Broncos are a tough draw for higher seeds and could surprise people.
Desert Ridge- While they already lost a game with their ace Scott Hoffman on the mound, Desert Ridge is a very good team and if your going to pick a team to bounce back from an opening loss and make it deep then the Jags are the obvious choice.
Really tough call here but Mountain Pointe looks to be a strong bet out of Pool B, whereas Mesquite and Hamilton are grouped together in Pool A. With an easier road and a consistently explosive offense Mountain Pointe is the pick here to bring home their first title even though they may not be the most complete team in the bracket.
5A Division II (Bracket)
Boulder Creek- Not just a favorite, the favorite. This is one of the best teams in the state (and regiion) and at 32-4 they appear to be a notch above the competition in Division II this year. The Jaguars are well-rounded with good pitching, a potent offense and excellent infield defense.
Horizon- The Huskies are the defending champs and they looked like it in their first round blowout of Sunnyside (24-9). While they underachieved a bit during the regular season (15-12) this is a talented team with playoff experience and remain a tough draw.
Chaparral- While the Firebirds got off to a slow start in their opener the #2 seed has had a good season and while Pool B is deep and solid there are no giants lurking, Chap looks like they could contend.
Players to Watch
Tony Blanford, RHP/INF, Boulder Creek- The best power arm in the state's 2012 class is also a good position player. When he's on the mound the Jaguars are in great shape, but he is an asset as a hitter as well and can contribute in every game.
Steve Casey, OF/RHP, Pinnacle- High level two-way player who crushed 11 Home Runs in the regular season who already added a game-tying HR in Pinnacle's comeback opening victory and earned the win in relief.
Alex Real, 3B/RHP, Boulder Creek- Tied for the 5A Division II lead with 12 regular season Home Runs, Real is not only a dangerous power hitter but handles the hot corner very well defensively and his arm is not only an asset at third but also on the mound.
The good news is that they haven't used their loss yet, the bad news is it will be tough to avoid doing so drawing Boulder Creek. If they aren't able to upset the Jaguars they'll face the loser of Perry-Pinnacle which will be a tough draw for an elimination game. They're a good team but they've got their work cut out for them.
The highest seed in Pool B should have their hands full. Ironwood Ridge is hot at the right time, exactly the kind of team you hope to avoid, they've also got 3-seed Desert Mountain on their side of the bracket and defending champion Horizon.
As a 3-seed drawing Horizon in their second game is very tough, and the Chaparral-Ironwood Ridge opponent in the next game will be no picnic either.
Perry- Very dangerous double digit seed who already has a run-rule
victory under their belt (12-0 over Yuma). The Pumas played a strong
regular season schedule and the experience should pay off in the
Ironwood Ridge- The Ridge made a lot of noise during the regular season as one of the top 5A Division II teams in Tucson, going 21-8. While their regular season schedule does not leave them as battle tested as some of the teams from up north. But having won six of their final seven in the regular season and a win over Valley Vista makes the Nighthawks a scary draw who could do some damage in Pool B.
Millenium- It will be interesting to see how the eight seed will respond to being sent to the losers bracket right off the bat. They are a heavy favorite against 16-seed Marcos de Niza and they have enough talent to string together a couple of wins. They look like the best bet to battle their way out of the losers bracket.
To take nothing away from the other teams in this field, we simply can't overlook the talent of Boulder Creek. The Jaguars have the best pitcher in this bracket (Tony Blanford), the best power hitter (Alex Real) and the best defensive player (West Tunnell) and good depth. While there are other teams that could pull the upset, Boulder Creek will be the favorite in every matchup.
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