Monthly Archives: April 2005

high schools

Skyhawks softball is soaring

by Jason Stone

Carl Bakemeier doesn’t try to fool anybody that his Deer Valley softball team plays in a strong region.
But the Skyhawks coach believes any win is a confidence builder.
So, when Deer Valley outscored opponents 58-0 in four games two weeks ago, the quality of competition didn’t matter.
“The bats were hitting,” Bakemeier said. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t getting the timely hits. Now, the hitting is coming around.”4c50a167bf227.image
That’s bad news for the rest of the 5A, which has to contend with the Skyhawks’ new found confidence.
The defending 5A state champions struggled a bit at the beginning of the season with only six returning players from the title team
As Bakemeier mixed in eight new players, Deer Valley’s hitting was inconsistent in the early part of the season, which led to some tough losses and questions about whether the Skyhawks’ title was a one-time event.
“I saw some things in the newspaper about (the losses),” second baseman Megan Conditt said. “I kept thinking, ‘It’s not that big of a deal.'”
Turned out that Conditt was right. A trip to the Colorado River did the trick.
Deer Valley went 4-2 at Mohave’s Tournament of the Champions, playing some of the best teams in the West. The Skyhawks also got a chance to do some needed team bonding, which Bakemeier said has carried over into the region season.
“I think we’re over our nervousness,” Bakemeier said. “This year has been a little bit like a rollercoaster.”
One player who has not been up and down is senior firstbaseman Laine Roth.
Roth would have set the state record with 11 home runs as a junior had Cactus’ Stacie Chambers not shattered that mark with 20.
The University of Arizona-bound Roth led a Deer Valley attack that broke the national record with 42 home runs as a team, a mark the returning players are still proud of.
Ask the players how many homers they hit last year and they’ll yell the answer before the question is even completed.
Roth has gone deep six times this year, and while the team has hit only half as many homers as last year, it’s still a big weapon for the Skyhawks.
“This year has been harder,” said Roth, who will likely play with Chambers in two years when the Cobra catcher also heads to Tucson in 2006. “Last year was so easy.”
Bakemeier has only four seniors to rely on and is carrying four sophomores and a freshman.
Two underclassmen — Karie Wilson and Kristen Cruickshank — are also playing big roles as they did in 2004.
Wilson has hit four home runs, and Cruickshank picked up where she left off since being on the mound for the state championship game against Sunrise Mountain last May.
Sunrise Mountain might end up being one of the Skyhawks’ roadblocks to the state championship.
Ironically, one of the key cogs to Deer Valley’s title last year, shortstop Courtney Shlee, transferred to the north Peoria school when she moved before the school year.
It was a big loss for the team, but bigger for Roth.
“She’s my best friend,” Roth said. “I’ve known her forever. It will be weird playing against her. But we will in college, too, because she’s going to (Pac-10 school) Oregon.”
The way the state championship brackets are set up, Sunrise Mountain and Deer Valley would meet prior to the championship game.
“We’ll have a chance to knock each other out maybe,” Roth said with a big smile.

Published at glendalestar.com • April 20, 2005

lacrosse

Sting face Mammoth test

by Jason Stone

When Glendale Arena was conceived, the first playoff game was supposed to be a Coyotes “White Out.”
Instead, a team that nobody even expected to be playing in the new venue will hold the distinction of hosting the first postseason game.
The Arizona Sting split a pair of games with Anaheim last week to finish the regular season 9-7 and in second place in the West Division.
That allows the Colorado Mammoth to come back to Glendale to take on the Sting in a division semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I’m very proud of our players and all that they have accomplished this season,” coach and general manager Bob Hamley said. “We are very excited to host our first-ever playoff game at Glendale Arena.”
It will be the fourth meeting of the season for the Sting and Mammoth. The two met just two weeks ago and the Sting’s 15-12 win ultimately determined the site of the playoff game.
That is a disadvantage to Colorado, which regularly draws 18,000 fans at Pepsi Center and has one of the biggest followings in the NLL.
The Sting drew their biggest crowd of the season in the finale against Anaheim. More than 7,000 fans saw Arizona drop an 11-10 decision, which knocked the team out of a division championship.
Arizona had a chance for the top spot and a first-round bye, but it needed to sweep Anaheim in the two games and hope for a Calgary loss to Toronto Sunday.
Arizona held up its end of the bargain in the first game against Anaheim with a 14-12 road win.
But when the teams came back to Glendale Saturday, the Sting lost their third game of the season at home.
The Sting beat Colorado in two of the three meetings this season.
The Mammoth enter the game reeling, having lost their last three regular season games to finish at .500.

Published at glendalestar.com • April 20, 2005

high schools

Apollo dominating region opponents so far

by Jason Stone

Most coaches preach team work, but few put their money where their mouth is.
The photo of the Apollo softball team above features every player — not because it looked good on the page, but because Hawks coach Susan Prado-Ortiz preaches teamwork and doesn’t like any individuals to be singled out.
“We truly are a team,” Prado-Ortiz said before a recent practice, where her undefeated Hawks were preparing to take on Greenway in an anticipated Desert Sky Region game Tuesday. (Result of the game were unavailable at press time.)
“I tell them there is no ‘I’ in ‘team.'”4c50a14e5eb00.image
Simple statistics back up what Prado-Ortiz is conveying.
The Hawks have no true superstars, but own a stacked lineup of solid players that helped the team win 19 of its first 22 games.
The team is batting around .380, its pitchers have ERAs in the neighborhood of 1.20 and five players with batting averages of .400 or better.
“Hitting is really contagious for us,” said pitcher Nina Ramirez, who has 12 wins on the mound and a batting average near .500.
Added senior Ayla Hopper: “Anybody (in the lineup) can start a rally.”
The Hawks feel they have teamwork and school pride to push it this year. Since the boys basketball team claimed the 4A state championship in February, players say it has changed the perception of the school.
“You can wear an Apollo shirt and people will stop you and say, ‘Oh, you go to the school of the state championship basketball team,'” senior Alria Metzler said. “Then, people ask us, ‘Are you going to take state like the basketball team?’ The support of the fans helps keep us going.”
Ramirez has played a key role in keeping the Hawks going, keeping an ERA down in the 0.70 range, while appearing in two-thirds of Apollo’s games.
Ramirez’s mother, Peggy, was a pitcher for Apollo in the 1980s before attending Glendale Community College, then Phoenix College.
Nina will follow in her mom’s footsteps and attend PC next fall.
“It would be nice to win a (college) championship after winning a (state high school) championship,” Ramirez said with a smile.
Winning at PC is typical as the Bears have won multiple national championships. But in softball, Apollo is still looking for its first state title.
Prado-Ortiz said her team is battle-tested.
“We played a lot of 5A teams and we lost to a couple of good 4A teams,” Prado-Ortiz said about the Hawks’ 4A losses to defending-champion Cactus and Millennium. “But, the girls are really starting to jell now.”

Published at glendalestar.com • April 13, 2005

lacrosse

Sting make playoffs for first time

by Jason Stone

The Arizona Sting have not been playing at Glendale Arena very long, but it did not take its fans long to figure out the biggest win in team history.
The Sting fulfilled their season-long goal of making the playoffs last Saturday in front of more than 6,500 fans at Glendale Arena, when they beat Colorado 15-12.
The victory put Arizona just a half-game behind Calgary in the West Division, giving the Sting a chance at a division championship and first-round bye in the West playoffs in only their second year in Arizona.
“There’s been a few of us who have been with this team since we were in Columbus,” said team coach and general manager Bob Hamley, referring to the Sting’s home prior to Arizona. “It sure feels good to get that ‘X’ next to our name.”
“X” in newspaper type normally refers to a team qualifying for the playoffs. In the Sting’s case, it could have meant “excellent” — as in the team’s start against Colorado.
All season long, the Sting have had trouble starting games positively, especially at home.
But against the Mammoth, a team also fighting for one of the top two spots in the West Division, Arizona played its best first half of the season at home, led after one quarter and was in front much of the second half.
Dan Dawson showed that he has a little bit of a claim to be the NLL’s league MVP. As he has done all season, Dawson scored two clutch goals late in the game to turn a tight contest into a big Sting cushion in the final minutes.
‘He’s been our go-to guy all year,” Hamley said. “(Saturday night) was no different.”
Arizona has a chance to win the division if it sweeps Anaheim in a home-and-home series this weekend. The first game is in California Friday, while the second is Saturday at Glendale Arena.
If the Sting win both and Calgary loses to East Division champion Toronto Friday (Saturday), Arizona will be the division champ and will await the winner of the Calgary-Colorado playoff game for the West championship April 30.
If the Sting ends up second, it will host the Mammoth April 23. A third-place finish would mean a road game in the first round, either at Calgary or Colorado, but the date for that game has yet to be determined.
But first things first. Arizona still has two more games remaining – ones that will either determine their playoff fate or be a big tune-up for the postseason.
“I’m just happy for the guys,” Hamley said.
For ticket information on the game against Anaheim or playoff tickets, call (480) 563-7825 or visit www.arizonasting.com.
NOTES: All-Star Game awarded to Toronto
The NLL awarded the 2006 All-Star Game to the Toronto Rock, which will host the contest at the Air Canada Centre Feb. 25, 2006.
The 2005 All-Star Game was held in Calgary and televised by NBC.

Published at glendalestar.com • April 13, 2005

high schools

Mtn. Ridge hopes pitching leads it to a 5A title

by Jason Stone

There is a big difference between regular season baseball and the playoffs.
Like in the NBA, where defense and guard play becomes important in the postseason, successful baseball teams usually rely on good pitching and a deep bench to excel in the playoffs.
Mountain Ridge learned this the hard way last year, when the Mountain Lions dominated the regular season, but were upset in the region tournament and lost early at state.
“Last year, we had a good 1-2 punch in pitching, but other guys didn’t step up like we needed to in the playoffs,” Mountain Ridge second-year coach Rob Kiepke said. “This year, I think we have a pretty deep team. It’s not just the top two (pitchers).”
But what a top two they are.
Brian Budrow and Corey Burns — the school’s Killer Bs — make up perhaps the best top of the rotation in the state and are the main reason the Mountain Lions are considered one of the favorites to win it all this year.4c50a14049937.image
Mountain Ridge has come close before — reaching the semifinals in 2002 — but observers are saying this is the Lions’ best shot at winning it all, especially because Budrow and Burns are both seniors and will be playing college ball — or maybe professionally — next season.
“I definitely think our staff is better this year overall,” said Budrow, who has been a force since his freshman year. “Plus, everybody we’ve been playing has been throwing their No. 1 or No. 2 (starters) at us, so we’ve seen the best of other teams.”
It’s certain that other teams see the best of Mountain Ridge every game. Burns transferred to the school from Moon Valley in Phoenix before the school year after his family moved right outside Ridge’s campus.
He replaced the graduated Nick Walters, who, with Budrow, made up one of the best 1-2 punches last year.
Budrow and Burns each reach the low 90s with their fastballs. Burns is more of a throw-it-by-you kind of pitcher, while Budrow uses more precision mixed in with his speed.
Either way, it’s been tough for the Mountain Lions to be beaten, something that has only happened twice all season.
One of those came last week when city-rival Deer Valley upset the Lions 6-0, providing what Budrow called “a good wake-up call.”
“Even the Yankees lose to the Expos (now Nationals),” Budrow said. “It was just one game.”
One game the Mountain Lions hope to win is the state championship. Winning state has been their clear goal, especially after the school’s success in volleyball and football early in the season.
“We always say that the fall sports set the tone for the year,” Kiepke said. “Our volleyball team won state. The football team went to the championship game. Now, we want to be there, too.”

Published at glendalestar.com • April 6, 2005