Prep baseball, softball tourneys sprouting like spring flowers

An abundance of tournament play last week gave high school baseball and softball teams around the Valley a chance to get in some extra work, and give the coaches an opportunity to better evaluate progress in their programs as the 2013 season turns the corner into the second half of the schedule.

And even bigger tournaments will get underway this week.

Perry High School had to be one of the bigger success stories from the past week, as the baseball and softball teams each brought home a tourney trophy.

The Puma softball team won its second championship in three years at the Marcos de Niza-McClintock Tournament in Tempe on Wednesday, and the next day the baseball team took down a Division I top-10 team in the championship game of the Highland Triple Play Classic in Gilbert.

Jillian Leslie pitched her softball team to four of Perry’s six wins as the Gilbert school went undefeated through the Marcos de Niza-McClintock, eventually beating Williams Field High School, 6-2, for the tourney title.  Leslie held the Blackhawks to six hits and struck out nine, while teammate Laynee Gomez took care of business at the plate.  Gomez, the lead-off hitter, contributed three hits to the win to help run Perry’s season record to 17-2.

Perry has been on a tear this season.  Their last loss was back on Feb. 23 when they got beat by Mesa’s Red Mountain High in the Lion Country Classic tournament.  Since then, they’ve reeled off 13 straight wins.

Four of Williams Field’s six hits came from Trinity Watts and Brittany Heyer, who each collected a pair.

Perry also beat Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School earlier in the tournament, but the Wolves came back in their finale to showcase the pitching gem of the event, when senior Andy Wellins, who is sporting a 1.55 ERA this season, pitched a no-hitter against Combs High School from San Tan Valley.

On the boys’ side, the baseball team knocked off the No. 10-ranked team in Division I, St. Mary’s High in Phoenix, to win the Highland Triple Play Classic.  The Pumas scored three runs in the fifth inning to come from behind to beat the Knights and put an end to their string of 13 straight wins.

After St. Mary’s went up 4-2, Austin Bull started Perry’s comeback rally in the fifth when there were two outs and no runners on base.  Bull singled, Jeremy McCuin doubled, and then Nick Jenkins hit a two-run single with bases loaded to cement the 5-4 win.

Bull went 2-for-4 for the game, scored two runs, and added an RBI.  McCuin also picked up two hits and two RBIs.

The Pumas went through the tourney undefeated, beating Dobson High, Apache Junction High, and Highland High School by a combined 37-8 score.

A 4-2 loss Friday to Hamilton High School dropped Perry’s record to 12-3 on the season.  The Huskies have been on a roll since losing the season opener to Mountain View High, winning eight of their last nine games.

Also on the tournament buffet table last week was the Mesquite-Gilbert Invitational.  The Gilbert High baseball team (11-3) went on an undefeated tour through their own event to run their win streak to 10 games.  The Tigers capped off the tourney run with a 11-1 victory over Mesa’s Mountain View High that was mercy-ruled after six innings.

The 11 runs adds to a prolific output at the plate for Gilbert this year.  The team has outscored its opponents 92-22 during the month of March and has scored 15 or better on three occasions.

Against Mountain View, the Tigers exploded with that kind of power in the third inning when they scored seven runs.  Manny Tapia had two hits in that one inning and Zach Rehmer parked a two-run homer.  Josh Moore made it a two-homer game when he soloed in the sixth.

And, just as the dust settles from the last round of tournaments, the annual Desert Mountain Softball Invitational begins tomorrow, featuring a field of 28 teams that includes many of the top teams in Division I and Division II. Then the Coach Bob Tournament kicks off on Saturday, bringing nearly 100 teams from Arizona (19 entries) and more than a dozen states across the country to high school baseball diamonds spread all over the Valley.

Spring has sprung – and so have the tournaments.