Cron, Haeger records make 2011 the ‘Year of the Long Ball’

The 2011 baseball/softball season may go down in the Arizona high school record books as The Year of the Long Ball.  Home-run records were set in both sports.

Or perhaps it should be The Year of the Dual-Threat Pitcher.

Both of the players who set new home-run records this season are pitchers.  Not just wannabe hurlers, but the best pitchers on their respective rosters.

Whatever happened to the days when pitchers weren’t expected to be able to hit? They would spend all their time working on improving their stuff on the mound, which didn’t leave much time for batting practice.  Coaches hid them at the very end of the batting order, and often sent a pinch-hitter to the plate in their place.

Not so any more.

Kevin Cron, who set the Arizona state high school records for most home runs in a season (27) and for a career (59), was also the ace pitcher at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix.

And Lauren Haeger, who broke the 2006 single-season state record of 20 homers set by Stacie Chambers and tied Chambers’ career record of 48, is also the No. 1 pitcher at Deer Valley High School in Glendale.

Chambers, by the way, just capped her senior season at the University of Arizona by becoming the Wildcats’ career home-run leader.  The Cactus High School (Glendale) graduate crushed a massive three-run homer to right field in the opening game of the NCAA Tucson Regional less than two weeks ago to set the new school career record of 86.

Another contributor to making this The Year of the Long Ball.  But Chambers is a catcher, so she doesn’t get the dual-threat designation.  However, she will go down in the college books as one of the best power-hitting catchers in the game.

Meanwhile, back at Mountain Pointe, Cron was leading the school to its first-ever state title, making major contributions at the plate and on the mound.  In addition to his 27 homer runs, he hit .560 and collected 11 doubles and 65 RBIs.

As the team’s ace in the circle, he compiled an 8-1 record, along with a pair of saves.  He had 71 strikeouts in 65 innings and finished with a 2.15 ERA.

When he wasn’t on the mound, he could be found behind the plate as The Pride’s mainstay catcher.

When you combine his offensive and defensive contributions, it’s easy to see why the big (6’4″, 230 lbs.) youngster was named the East Valley Tribune Player of the Year and is a candidate for the Arizona Republic Player of the Year honor.

The Deer Valley softball program was even more dependent on Haeger’s work on the mound, as she worked nearly every game of the season and finished with a 26-5 record and a 0.44 ERA.  She threw 413 strikeouts, which averages out to just over 13 a game – and gave up just 37 walks all season, or just one per outing.

Perhaps the most interesting footnote to her senior year accomplishment was that the home run that broke the state single-season record came in the top of the seventh inning in the state 5A-II championship game to propel Deer Valley to the state title.

The most interesting footnote to Cron’s final year of high school ball?  He struck out just four times all season.

Cron is headed to Texas Christian next year and Haeger has signed with Florida.