Coach Bob Invite shows strength of AZ prep baseball

The Coach Bob Invitational, which wrapped up over the weekend, continues to validate on a yearly basis the strength of the high school baseball programs in Arizona.

This year, three of the four teams making it into the championship games of the two divisions were from within the state, with Boulder Creek High School in Anthem laying claim to the title in the National Division, the tournament’s top division.

The Jaguars went 7-2 through the week-long tournament that drew 73 teams from 9 states (including one school from Alaska), eventually beating Sheldon Oregon, 9-4, in the championship game.

Meanwhile, in the American Division, two Arizona teams battled it out in the championship game, with Valley Vista High School in Surprise waltzing to a 13-3 win over Phoenix’ North Canyon High School in a run-ruled six innings.

This was the second consecutive year that Boulder Creek, which hosts the tournament, has wrapped up the National Division title.  Before that it was Chandler High School that won it in a wild, high-scoring game that saw the Wolves beat Boulder Creek for the 2010 title in a 25-23 finish.  In 2009, it was North Canyon taking their turn at the title.

For the record, coming into this year’s edition, teams from Arizona have won 58 games, more than any other state.  Colorado ranks second with 48.  Sixteen teams in the 74-team field this year were from within the state.

Boulder Creek (18-8-1) went through the five games of division play with just one loss – but it was a doozy.  They were blanked, 9-0, by Regis, a Jesuit high school in Colorado.

But the rest of the way was pretty easy going, as they beat Lake Oswego (Oregon), 11-1, and Chaparral High from Colorado, 14-0.  Their only test came against West Salem, Oregon, when they squeezed out a 4-3 win.

The Jaguars took a 4-0 lead in the championship game and then held off a late-innings rally by Sheldon.  Boulder Creek shortstop, West Tunnell, who started the first-inning scoring with a lead-off single that would lead to four runs, went 4-for-4 at the plate and was named the tournament’s MVP.   Teammate David Real, the senior catcher/infielder, added a pair of hits on the game.

In the American Division title game, North Canyon took a 2-0 lead right out of the chute, but their first-inning lead lasted just half an inning.  In the bottom of that frame, Valley Vista showed a glimpse of things to come as the Monsoon put up six runs and then continued the barrage the rest of the way for the 13-3 win.

Valley Vista (18-3) cruised through division play, going 4-0, while North Canyon had a much bumpier road.  The Rattlers lost their division opener, 12-1, getting steamrolled by Pine Creek High School from Colorado.  They recovered to beat ThunderRidge High (Colo.) by one run before getting caught up in a 12-inning pitcher’s duel with Clackamas High (Oregon) that eventually turned into a 3-2 win.

Nelson Benjamin, Valley Vista’s senior pitcher, was named tournament MVP.