Early observations on 5A-I baseball chase

March 8, 2011 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

With invitationals taking up most of the first month of the prep baseball season it is difficult to get a grasp on who the teams to beat are.

Teams use four, five ,six pitchers or more to get through lofty inning totals that pile up the first month. When play settles in to power-point game's exclusively around the last week of March, the picture will clear. For now, here are some facts and observations:

Best records through March 7: Salpointe is 6-0; Trevor Browne 7-1; Brophy Prep and Hamilton are 6-1; Mesquite, Basha and Dobson are 5-1; Mesa Mountain View is 6-2; Gilbert 5-3; Mountain Pointe 3-2.

Best Invitational thus far (based on competition): Has to be the Scottsdale Quarterback Club Invite. That tourney featured three state champs from 2010 (Desert Ridge 5A-I, Horizon 5A-II, Saguaro 4A-I; 5A-I runner-up Mountain Pointe; 5A-II runner-up Desert Mountain; 5A-I semifinalists Mesquite and Gilbert and 5A-II semifinalist Boulder Creek. That's eight of the 10 teams in the SQCI field.

Pitching and pitching depth: Hamilton returns its top three pitchers from last year Zach Johnson, Jake Andrews and Forest Vanlandingham. Mesquite its top two plus three others with experience although one of its best -- Garrett Jeffries -- has yet to throw this season. Mountain View returns its top two starters (Hayden Rogers and Willie Ethington) and several others with varsity experience. Desert Ridge has one of the top pitchers around in ASU-bound Scott Hoffman. The Jaguars will be tested this week with games against Highland, Chaparral and Brophy. These are just a few examples of teams with pitching depth or at least solid pitching on paper. There are more, which makes figuring out an elite team or two or three trying.

More evidence this week: Most schools play two or three power-point games this week prior to another wave of non-counting invitationals so everyone will put their best available pitchers-players out front. Here are some of the top contenders and their opposition this week. Watch for these results closely: Salpointe - Mesa, Chandler and Desert Vista; Mesquite - Desert Vista and Millennium; Basha - Red Mountain and Hamilton; Brophy - Boulder Creek, Deer Valley and Desert Ridge; Desert Ridge - Highland, Chaparral and Brophy; Mesa Mtn. View -- Mountain Ridge, Centennial; Gilbert -- Marana Mtn. View and Westview; Dobson -- Westwood and Horizon.