ESPN is latest to honor Valley Christian’s Jeff Paschke

When Jeff Paschke opted to enroll at Valley Christian High School instead of the public school in his district, Desert Vista HS, his decision put the Christian school in Chandler on the road to its first-ever state title in baseball.

Valley Christian won the 2A crown last season, as Paschke joined with his senior teammate, Ryan Cooper, to form one of the most potent hitting duos in the state last year.

Ryan graduated, but Paschke has two more seasons left before he moves on to college.  And the accolades didn’t stop when the 2011 season ended.

Paschke was just named the national sophomore baseball Player of the Year by the ESPN publication, Rise.  And that’s particularly appropo, since that’s just what is happening to his stock: it’s rising with college recruiters.

Paschke, a shortstop and pitcher, joined with Ryan, the catcher, to lead the Trojans to the state title with an 8-7 win in the championship game against Scottsdale Christian Academy.

Along the way, they broke numerous records – and helped Valley Christian put its name in the record books as well.

The Trojans destroyed the old state record of 29 home runs in a season by putting 55 out of the park.  Paschke contributed 17 of those and Cooper added 19.  Valley Christian amassed a total of 364 runs enroute to a 25-5 season.

Paschke stepped right up to varsity play as a freshman, when he hit .412 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.  He finished his sophomore season with a sizzling .620 batting average and set a state record with 72 RBIs.

At one point he had a hitting streak that began in his freshman year and carried over to the next year, stringing together 33 straight games with at least one hit.  Perhaps even more amazing, he has played in 49 games at the mid-point of his high school career, and hit in all but seven of those games.

At 6’4″ tall, he’s a rather imposing presence on the mound.  But his pitching definitely wouldn’t have put him in the running for any post-season honors.  He threw 13 innings last season and compiled a 9.98 ERA.

His accumulated honors so far include the 2A Metro Player of the Year, selection to the Coaches’ 2A first team All-State, first team Sophomore All-American, and first team Small School All-State.

But this national honor has to trump all those before it – and give Valley Christian something to build on next year as it tries to defend its one-and-only baseball title.