3A baseball preview

May 4, 2017 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

The 3A East Region has the numbers. Five qualifiers among the 16 teams in this year's state tournament and the top two seeds in No. 1 Holbrook and No. 2 Payson.

Can they back up that prowess at state? We begin to find out Friday May 5 when first-round action takes place at Surprise Sports Complex. The quarterfinals follow on Saturday May 6 with the tournament wrapping uip the following Friday (May 12) and Saturday (May 13) with the semifinals and final at Surprise Complex.

Here's a capsule look at the top 8 seeds:

NO. 1 HOLBROOK (23-5): The Roadrunners were edged out by Payson for their region title and sport the second-best overall record in the field. Senior Cade Maestas has produced a monster year at the plate (.570 avg., 20 extra-base hits and 43 RBI.) Pitching is handled by Tristan Baldonado, who is 8-0 with a .91 ERA and 82 Ks in 54 innings. Three other pitchers are capable -- Jalen Nez, Justin Perkins and Maesta.

NO. 2 PAYSON (17-9): No one player stands out offensively for the Longhorns, who sport a team batting average of .309 and no .400 hitters. Seniors Jake Beeker, Hunter Paul and Efrain Amaya-Medina have shared most of the starting pitching duties with a respectable, composite ERA of 3.62.

NO. 3 FLORENCE (22-4): The Gophers are led by strong junior class at the plate and on the mound. Matt Olsen qualifies in both areas. He's batting .431 with a team-best 30 RBI. On the hill he has a 0.64 earner-run average, a 9-1 record and 102 strikeouts in 55 innings. Matan Utschen is hitting .500 with 25 RBI and is 6-1 pitching with a 1.58 ERA. Tyler Austin (.417) and Walter Sommer (.405, 29 RBI) have done damage at the dish.

NO. 4 SAHUARITA (21-5-1): The Mustangs have not lost to a 3A team this season and are equipped with solid hitting and pitching. Run production flows from junior Sam Escarrega .461 avg., 5 HR, 28 RBI and  Jose Dicochea (.376, 29 RBI). Add Dylan Watt (.500) and Daniel Valdez (.403) and its a troubling lineup. Senior Jerry Lerma leads the pitching staff with a 9-0 record and 2.08 ERA. Right with him are junior Ian Mejia (6-0, 2.14) and soph Angel Ortiz (5-1, 2.01).

NO. 5 YUMA CATHOLIC (19-5): The Shamrocks won the Metro Region and are led by all-around talent Daniel Miranda, a senior. Miranda is batting .585 with 19 of his 38 hits for extra bases and team-high 36 RBI. He pitches, too, to the tune of a 7-1 record, 2.30 ERA and 90 Ks in 52 innings. Behind Miranda as top hitters are Aiden Rodriguez (.493), Ricky Carrazco (.486) and Blake Sandoval (.448). Sophomore Eddie Morales is a good No. 2 pitcher with a 6-3 record and 3.63 ERA.

NO. 6 SAFFORD (19-7): The Bulldogs don't tear the cover off the ball. Top hitters are Austin Villalba (.386, 25 RBI) and senior Tevin Broadhead (.361). Pitching will have to carry them and it has this season with a 2.47  team ERA. Junior Gabe Ornelas is the ace with an 8-1 record.

NO. 7 CASTEEL (22-6): The Colts have been representative fielding a varsity of sophomores and freshman only. They have a balanced lineup offensively with the leaders Max Callarman (.416, 21 RBI), Brody Wagner 9.359, 25 RBI), Eli Ludwig (.349, 20 RBI) and CJ Glenn (.345, 23 RBI). It's not a blow-hitters away pitching staff, but Tanner Keely is a solid N0. 1 (6-2, 1.71 ERA).

NO. 8 NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN (18-9): The Crusaders are led by senior Tyler Worrell (.382, 29 RBI), Noah Gray (.387) and Logan Ripple (.386,  21 RBI). They've missed Worrell on the mound this season. Jarin Davis with a 5-2 record and 2.43 ERA is the best starter on the staff, but pitching depth could be a problem for them in the tournament.