BC Baseball Seniors: Look to Bring Title Home

 

Writer Tom Scanlon

In 2013, the Houston Astros dug into a rebuilding philosophy, throwing a bunch of young unknowns out on the diamond and hoping for the best. They were terrible, losing twice as many games as they won.

Similarly, in 2014, the Boulder Creek High School varsity baseball team was filled with young players, including four freshman starters. And the team lost more than it won, with a 16-24 record — almost shocking for a team that regularly makes the playoffs.

“We took our lumps that season,” coach Joe McDonald recalls. This guy hates to lose, as his grimace underscores.

Things did not get any better, as the Jaguars were 14-20 the following season. But last year, the young players gained confidence, bounces started going BC’s way, and the team got back above .500 with a 21-19 record.

In Houston, the Astros became a contender as one of the most promising teams in baseball during the last two years, with a playoff appearance and a solid future. Will a similar blossoming occur here in Anthem?

In late January, on a sunny, warm day that shouted, “Play ball!” McDonald was keeping his optimism in check. He is an old schooler, the type who does not want to jinx things by bragging or making wild predictions. Even so, he was getting fired up about the coming season, which started with a home game played against Mountain Pointe High School on February 24. After ramping up this month, the regular season concludes April 21, but McDonald and company are hoping to extend the season long into the playoffs.

“It’s not a sprint,” McDonald says about the long season, “it’s a marathon.” As such, only the best conditioned bodies hold up over the spring months. McDonald, impressed with his team’s offseason preparations, says they’ve been hitting the weight room since November, doing strength and conditioning.

The old-school coach fired up some old-school hip-hop on a portable stereo, then took the mound to pitch batting practice. After the sound of clanking weights, the sound of a bat colliding with a ball was music to Coby Boulware’s ears, who has been starting for BC since moving here from Seattle in his sophomore year.

Boulware’s father, Ben, is a former minor league player who in 1994 led the South Atlantic League in hitting with a .332 batting average. But he does not preach to pad statistics.

“They call it perfecting your craft,” the younger Boulware says, summarizing his father’s philosophy. While he would love to match or exceed the .415 average he rang up last season, he says he wants to focus on the little parts of his game — fielding, being in the right position, proper throwing technique, etc. — that will ultimately help his team.

Boulware and his fellow seniors, including three-year starter Mason Millett and four-year starters Zachary Baptist, Daniel Carrizosa and Cutter Kitson, have big plans for the coming baseball season.

“Win state,” is how a grinning Baptist simply puts it.

“We’re all going for it,” Millett adds.

Unlike last year, BC does not have a hulking power hitter in the middle lineup. Mitchell Allen, who smashed six of BC’s nine home runs, has graduated. This year’s team features a batch of .333-plus hitters: Toby Allred batted .391 last season and Baptist and Carrizosa hit .366, followed closely by Carter Lay’s .357. Dave Calderone, McDonald’s assistant coach, works with the batters on a common theme: “Shorten your swing.”

Over the past decade-plus, BC has become known as a top-level hitting school. This season, a big reason for excitement is Millett, who has the potential to be one of BC’s best pitchers. Last year, he was limited because of injuries, but his scholarship to Gonzaga University, a top baseball program in the country, demonstrated his talent. On the school’s website, coach Mark Machtolf is quoted: “We are very excited to get Mason Millett in a Zag uniform. He has emerged as one of the top right-handers in the state of Arizona.”

Indeed, though he missed much of the season, Millett had a .78 ERA when he returned. Last summer, he pitched for Team Arizona in the Junior Sunbelt Tournament and held a team from Georgia to one run in six innings with eight strikeouts. He caught the eyes of scouts pitching for the Arizona Pilots, tossing a complete game in the semifinals of the 2015 Firecracker Classic. Millett is a tall, thin, soft-spoken type who lets his 90-plus mph fastball do the talking.

Kitson, the veteran catcher who McDonald trusts to call pitches, is looking for a big season from Millett. The catcher and the pitcher have had long talks about strategy for the year, with a joint conclusion that there is only one way to keep pitch counts down to extend Millett’s innings: attack batters and make them swing.

The BC veterans realize their senior season of baseball will fly by, and next year they plan to be playing in college: Millett up north at Gonzaga; Baptist at Glendale Community College; Boulware at Texas Christian University; Carrizosa at California State University, Bakersfield; and Kitson at George Fox University. A few other seniors are looking to play beyond high school, adding to the 33 BC graduates who have gone on to play college ball.

Before they go, the BC veterans will dive for ground balls, sprint for extra bases, muscle into short, swing short, slide hard, pitch aggressively and do everything they can to bring a state title home to Anthem.

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