Rim Country baseball fans and boosters have the opportunity tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 16, to preview the 2013 Longhorn team and first-year coach Brian Young.
It all occurs in a first-ever “Sunflower Seed” scrimmage to begin at 10 a.m. on the PHS diamond.
The “seeds” scrimmage is a take on the traditional “Soap Scrimmages” that were held for years in prep football. The admission to those was a bar of soap, which players then used in post-practice showers.
Young is asking that sunflower seeds be the admission for tomorrow’s scrimmage. The seeds, which are a favorite of baseball players at all levels, will then be available to team members during games.
After fans cough up a pack of seeds to be admitted to Longhorn field, they will have the opportunity for a sneak peak at the players who will fill next year’s junior varsity and varsity roster.
On varsity, a core of five returning letter-winners will form the foundation of the varsity team.
Gunner Goodman, Dailey Carnes, Konner Duran, Nick McMullen, Tyus Sarnowski and Miguel Mendoza are experienced players seasoned by last year’s play in which the Horns came up just one power point position ranking short of earning a state tournament berth.
Among the veterans, McMullen could be the most heralded, having been named last spring to Arizona’s Sports Network’s All-Division Team III as a second team outfielder.
A network executive who goes by the name “Coach Pichotta” praised McMullen saying, “He’s a favorite young player in the state of mine. This kid should be a dominant force as he moves forward.”
Last season, McMullen led the team in hitting with a robust .488 average. He also hit for good power with a team-high 13 doubles, one triple and four home runs. A good contact hitter, he struck out just eight times in 82 at-bats.
His 44 RBIs was also a team high.
Mendoza also brings plenty of experience and moxie to the team, having been a stalwart on last year’s team as a pitcher and hitter.
He wrapped up the campaign with a 4-2 record and a 4.52 ERA.
At the plate, he hit .286 with 15 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
Goodman also pitched, racking up a 4.20 ERA and a tough-luck 1-4 record.
Offensively, he hit .224 with 24 runs scored and 17 RBIs.
Sarnowski compiled a 1-1 record on the hill and hit 2.17.
Carnes put together a robust .328 batting average and Duran finished at .143 in limited playing time.
In addition to Young having the returning letter-winners to call upon, he has at his disposal what he calls, “A very strong freshman class” which will put their skills on display for the first time on the prep level in tomorrow’s scrimmage and the Fountain Hills tournament Feb. 20 to 23.
Young says he will use the scrimmage and tournament as an opportunity “to evaluate them (the frosh) as see if they are going to help us at the varsity level.”
Taran Sarnowski, Rueben and Carl Adcock are among the rookies who could see varsity action this season.
Sarnowski and Estrada could pitch, catch or play in the outfield and Adcock is being penciled in as an outfielder.
Because adverse weather conditions have sent players and coaches scampering indoors, Young has not had sufficient practices to fully evaluate his entire roster. He, however, believes the team “will be a little inexperienced but very deep on the mound.
“We are the kind of team that is built to play 3-4 games a week.”
He predicts during the upcoming season, “There are gong to be weeks where we only play twice and guys are going to be coming to me wanting more innings.”
The coach also believes a major competition between the pitchers could develop as they battle for more innings on the hill.
Duran, Goodman, Mendoza Tars Sanrowski and Taran Sarnowski are among the candidates expected to make a push for starting pitching honors.
Also, McMullen might resume pitching after arm trouble limited him last year to first base and the outfield.
“They all throw very well and aren’t just listed as pitchers because they want to be,” Young said.
The infield could also be solid with McMullen, Carnes, Goodman, Mendoza and Duran returning to the Horn fold.
The outfield, however, is another story.
“We return very few varsity innings of experience,” said Young. “Our coaching staff is being challenged to prepare our outfielders quickly and get them experience.”
The lack of know-how in the outfield could mean the team also will be hitting challenged, especially in the early season. But the coach will not use the lack of “O” as an excuse, “Because we expect to win on pitching and defense.”
While talent is all-important in building winning teams, it’s the intangibles that often mean the difference between a “W” and an “L.”
Young appears to have few doubts about his first team’s attitudes and work ethic. “So far, attitudes have been very good; they have done well and are really excited about getting on the field to see where we are.”
The key to success, Young contends, is “We have a solid core group that worked out and continued to play throughout the fall and winter to be ready to go straight into competition.”
Young, who was the PHS junior varsity coach for seven seasons, has assembled a strong staff that includes pitching coach Scott Nossek who once pitched for the University of Arizona and had a stint in the professional ranks.
Bob Watson is being charged with coaching the outfield and Flynn Carr will oversee catchers and hitting.
Jeff Cochran heads the Jayvee team and will be assisted by David Klassen. Both will also help out on the varsity level when available.
“Overall, I feel like it is a very strong staff with lots of experience, baseball knowledge, maturing and energy” Young said.
As for goals, preseason can sometimes limit time spent discussing those, but Young says the teams sights are set on, “continuing to be better every time we step on the field.
Right now we are taking things one day at a time.”