The finest players in the state's 3A conference gather tomorrow (Saturday) to participate in the annual Arizona Baseball Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game. Game time is 7 p.m. at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Representing Payson High School on the North team will be Robbie Ochoa, Ky Bradley and Darrin Grover. Payson High School's coach Teddy Pettet and Round Valley's Arnie Spiker will co-coach the North team.
Both the North and South teams, as well as the coaches, were chosen in a voting of ABCA members at the conclusion of the past season. Only graduating seniors are eligible to participate in the prestigious clash.
Other North team members include Ben Sedillo (Blue Ridge), Matt Finch (Round Valley), Seth Davis (Winslow), Josh Najar (Round Valley), Lance Nikolas (Show Low), Corbin Davis (Show Low), Mike Beeson (Winslow), Josh Jacobson (Snowflake), Loga Koopee (Hopi), Doug Mathis (Show Low), Toby Elkins (Blue Ridge), Scott Begay (Window Rock), Jorge Sanders (Winslow) and Jamin Fellows (Show Low).
Most of the all-stars are well acquainted, having played one another throughout their four-year careers. Nonetheless, Pettet gathered the team Saturday in Snowflake where he put them through a lengthy practice session. His and Spiker's evaluations from that session will help the coaches select the starters for Saturday's game.
Pettet anticipates the current 17-player roster might be trimmed to 14 or 15 before game time. Having some players opt out of the game for a variety of reasons could be a blessing in disguise.
"That would mean we could keep our five or six best players in the entire game," Pettet said.
Ochoa is one of the Payson stars who might never leave the field regardless of what roster scenario unfolds. That's because he's the only first baseman on the North roster. Ochoa will take to the star clash a reputation as one of the best all-around first basemen in the state. Last season, he compiled an impressive .988 fielding average. Known for his defensive prowess, Ochoa seldom committed a miscue whether he was corralling an off-target throw from an infielder or scooping a hot grounder out of the dirt.
Offensively, he finished the past season with a .395 batting average that included a team-high 10 doubles.
In Bradley, the North team has one of the most accomplished all-around players in the state. In addition to being an all-star third baseman, Bradley was tapped to the All-East and All-State first teams. Last season, he led the Longhorns in three offensive categories batting average (.514), home runs (11) and RBIs (43). Since the conclusion of the high school season, Bradley has played on a Flagstaff team that is participating in a Northern Arizona Connie Mack league. He's hoping a good showing in the league and in the all-star game will earn him a college baseball scholarship. Although he was a three-sport star at PHS, Bradley's goal has always been to play collegiate baseball.
As a North all-star second baseman, Grover will be battling Blue Ridge's Sedillo for playing time. If Grover has a distinct advantage, it could be the hot bat he wielded from the No. 9 position in the Longhorn batting order. His .329 batting average was among the region's best for a player hitting last in the lineup. Grover's infield defense was also strong enough to earn him ample votes from ABCA members.
For Pettet, tomorrow's appearance in the all-star game will be the second of his career. In 1994, he made his first appearance as a star coach.
Pettet assumed the reins of the PHS program in 1989 after former coach Bruce Haught resigned. That season, Pettet led the Horns to the A West region championship. He followed that feat with another region championship in 1995 when Payson High was a member of the East region.
In 1998, the Longhorns rode the pitching arm of Bryan Zumbro and the coaching of Pettet to the school's only state baseball championship.
Last season, the Longhorns finished 21-7-1 and earned a berth into the state tournament where they were eliminated in the first round by Chino Valley.
On April 23 in a 9-4 win over Blue Ridge, Pettet chalked up his 200th career victory at PHS.