The finest prep baseball players from the 3A conference are tuning up for the granddaddy of all postseason showdowns -- the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
From Payson High, Jake Willis and Jason Sweet have been chosen by coaches to participate in the annual celestial clash, set for 7 p.m. June 9 at the Surprise Baseball Complex.
Sweet was named to the team as a first baseman and Willis as a pitcher.
Last season, Willis led the Longhorns, 18-11, to a berth in the state tournament where the team lost in the first round, 9-6, to North champion Winslow. The senior slugger wrapped up the regular season as the second-leading hitter in the region with a .560 average. He also led the East in stolen bases with 21 and had 27 RBIs.
Although Sweet was chosen to the North All-Star team as a first baseman, he spent most of his four-year career at PHS as a pitcher. During the past season, he compiled a 4-6 record with a 6.22 ERA.
Offensively, he hit at a .381 clip, which included eight doubles.
Sweet and Willis have said they would like to play next season on the collegiate level.
Ron Bergman of Wickenburg and Holbrook's Shawn Layden will coach the North team. Mike Briguglio of Fountain Hills and Jarett Guy of Estrella Foothills will coach the South.
Wickenburg defeated Holbrook, 6-3, in the 3A state championship game. Both teams entered the postseason as No. 2 seeds -- the Roadrunners from the East and the Wranglers represented the West.
Joining Willis and Sweet on the star team from the East will be Cody Rodriquez (Snowflake), Derek Brewer (Show Low), Hondo Castanada (Blue Ridge), Justin Maestas (Holbrook), Jordan Murphy (Show Low), Cooper Wagner (Round Valley), Derek Fusselman (Snowflake) and Olen Hatch (Holbrook).
The North All-Stars are comprised of players representing the East, North and some West region players. The South is made up of South region players and a few from the West.
Only seniors may participate in the All-Star games.
All-Star games will also be played in the 1A, 2A, 4A and 5A conferences.
No Super 50
As exciting as selection to the All-Star game is for the seniors, they suffered some disappointment when officials announced that the 2007 Super 50 Game has been canceled.
Coaching Association officials would not give reasons for the cancellation.
The event has been hosted the past five years by the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The game, which was usually played following a weekend afternoon D-Backs game, pitted the top 50 players from the All Star games, 1A through 5A, against one another.
In 2002, Payson's Ky Bradley participated in the prestigious game, as did Waylon Pettet the following year.
The two called playing in a major league park the biggest baseball thrill of their lives.