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Sprouts spring sports 'Team of the Season' award finalists selected

June 7, 2021 by Seth Polansky, AZPreps365


AIA partner Sprouts will once again be awarding a $500 gift card to its "Team of the Season” honoring the spring sports participants. Voting will take place this Tuesday through Friday on the AZPreps365 Live app, which is free in the Apple app store and Google Play.

The four finalists – Alhambra baseball, Mesquite baseball, Snowflake track & field and St. David baseball – were selected by the AZPreps365 writers based on overall performance, overcoming obstacles, community involvement and other intangibles that made this a memorable season.

Fans must download and register the AZPreps365 Live app to vote. Voting will take place from Tuesday at 10 a.m. until Friday at 5 p.m. The winning team will be announced on the AZPreps365 Saturday morning show this Saturday, June 12, between 8-10 a.m. The nominees are below.

Alhambra Baseball

The tradition of Alhambra’s baseball program is rich, but it’s been a while since it was this loaded. This past season, Alhambra competed for the title in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s biggest conference for the first time in 46 years. In the process, it captured the heart of a community and school district that were adversely affected by COVID-19.

The 19-2 team didn’t win out, dropping the 6A final to probably the best baseball team in the state this year, Liberty. But what Alhambra accomplished this season was still inspiring.

For precautionary reasons during the pandemic, the Phoenix Union District kept its fall and winter sports programs from fully competing. But when its spring teams, including Alhambra baseball, got the go-ahead to play for a chance to reach the playoffs, Alhambra immediately signaled that it was a state contender.

It opened with win over a strong Phoenix program, Brophy Prep - a team it hadn’t defeated since the 1990s. In the playoffs, the magic continued, beginning with a no-hitter tossed by ace Daniel Avitia.

The Lions followed that with Marco Pacheco pitching a victory over one of the favorites, Red Mountain. But it was its 3-2 state semifinal victory over seven-time champ Hamilton that really confirmed that Alhambra was one of the best high school sports stories in Arizona during this previous school year.

By reaching the 6A conference final, Alhambra became the first Phoenix Union District school to play for a baseball championship in the state’s biggest conference since Camelback’s 1985 team.

Mesquite Baseball

One of six state baseball champions, Mesquite stood out in several ways. The Wildcats’ 23-1 record was the best in the state. Their only loss was by one run to Saguaro, 5-4.

Their lineup featured five regulars from the shortened 2020 season that saw the Wildcats break even at 5-5. Eight of its nine regulars batted .300 or better and the team averaged 10 runs per game - as good or better than most state champs. Two starting pitchers projected to shine in 2020 again emerged as top hurlers this season. A third entered the mix and was effective as well. The trio of Zach Zwaschka, Sebastian Granillo and Luis Morales won at least six games each with records of 9-0, 7-0 and 6-0, respectively. The pitching staff allowed just 3.1 runs per game.

Mesquite won its final 18 games in a row and avenged a 2019 state title loss to Salpointe with a 2-1 nailbiter at Tempe Diablo Stadium in May. Coach Jeff Holland completed his 23rd season as the program’s only head baseball coach since the school opened in the 1998-1999 year. This was Mesquite's second championship and fifth title contest appearance.

Snowflake Track and Field

Snowflake High School capped a historic 2020-21 sports year, one of the most successful in its history, by sweeping the boys and girls Division III track and field championships.

Team of the spring? Try team of stars. Between reigning triple jump champ Reagan Olson, 200-meter dash sophomore queen Lydia Szabo, silver and bronze medal javelin throwers Macee LeSueur and Kimberlee Eich and the gold-medal-winning 4x800-meter relay team, the girls alone had an overwhelming array of depth and athleticism. Add to that senior boys javelin silver medalist Tyler White and two second-place finishes from the girls 4x100 relay and the boys 4x400 relay, and the word team never meant so much, as the Lobos made opponents dizzy with their deep mix of experience and young power.

In the end the boys team had won its eighth state title in school history outscoring Sabino 125-102, and the girls earned their third crown in a row 77-62 over ALA-Queen Creek.

St. David Baseball

The St. David baseball team captured the 18th championship in program history this spring when the Tigers outlasted Ray 9-8 at Tempe Diablo Stadium on May 15. The Tigers built an 8-0 lead over the Bearcats and held on for the victory with Ray scoring two more times in the last frame before the final out was recorded.

St. David finished the year 19-2 with head coach Ron Goodman picking up his second state championship, as his first came nine years ago in 2012. With the town’s population of just over 1,600 and a school enrollment of just over 100 students, it’s an improbable success story. But it took, and continues to take, work to get the job done for the school located south of I-10 between Tucson and Willcox.

The Tigers came into the 1A playoffs with a No. 1 seed this spring, but the team was No. 21 in 2016 with a 6-10 record and it looked like the glory days for the small-town school were over. But the team slowly battled back with a No. 5 ranking in 2017 and a No. 4 ranking in 2018. Four freshmen from that squad - Robby Gooding, Logan Davis, Reo Larson and Kason Jacquez – turned out to be the nucleus for the championship in their senior seasons. Larson and Gooding were the pitchers for the Tigers on championship night, and the senior group had a combined eight hits and four RBI.