WEST VALLEY PREPS

Deer Valley baseball breaks through

Skyhawks host 4A postseason game today

Posted 4/27/22

Deer Valley is ready for its first 4A baseball playoff game in at least 30 years.

The Skyhawks earned the #15 seed and host #18 Phoenix Shadow Mountain (17-8 overall, 12-6 regular season) at 4 p.m. today.

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WEST VALLEY PREPS

Deer Valley baseball breaks through

Skyhawks host 4A postseason game today

Posted

Deer Valley is ready for its first 4A baseball playoff game in at least 30 years.

The Skyhawks earned the #15 seed and host #18 Phoenix Shadow Mountain (17-8 overall, 12-6 regular season) at 4 p.m. today at Deer Valley, 18424 N. 51st Ave., Glendale). It's an elimination game and the winner advances to the main 4A draw.

Deer Valley (15-8 overall, 13-6 regular season) is playing in its first postseason game since what turned out to be its last 5A game, a wild 13-11 loss to traditional power Scottsdale Chaparral in coach Greg Rice's third year with the program.

“It really changed mid-year when we put that five-game win streak together. You could see the boys’ belief in each other,” Rice said in an April 15 interview. “When we get a play in game I like our chances. And once you get to Saturday good things can happen if we keep believing.”

That interview was after the team's second win over a Peoria program that shares many similarities with the Skyhawks. Both have state titles but have watched younger schools become destination baseball programs.

Now these West Valley Region rivals have rebuilt gradually and reached new heights with a lot of seniors.

“Last year we had a .500 record and we wanted to bounce back from that. we pretty much have the same team,” senior Carson Brown said.

The two wins against Peoria probably saved the Skyhawks a long bus trip.  The Panthers are the #17 seed and play #16 Lee Williams in Kingman also at 4.

Senior Collin Cartee  threw a complete game four hitter in the 5-1 win at Peoria High April 15.

“Our pitching has been outstanding. Sophomore Tanner Theall has been going stong,” Rice said. “Today, the complete game of Collin Cartee was fantastic.”

Yet Rice, Brown and Cartee all cited a 5-4 loss at Chandler Seton Catholic Prep March 3 as the biggest game of the season.

While the Sentinels won and are the #11 seed in 4A, Deer Valley gained a lot from hanging with them on the road.

“We lost to Seton Catholic but we were in it the whole time. We made a few mistakes but that game gave us confidence,” Cartee said.

The team clobbered #21 Prescott 11-5 up north on March 30.

It is a routine win but Brown said it is crucial for other reasons.

‘Going to Prescott was fun. It’s always those long bus rides that you get some team bonding in. We got to know our teammates more and won in Prescott, so we built off that,” Brown said.

Brown sets the table, leading the team with a .493 average and adding a .565 on base percentage and 15 RBI.

“Our senior leadership starts with Carson Brown at shortstop and at leadoff. He is our motor that keeps us going. He sets the tone for the game,” Rice said.

Cartee is the top all around player, leading the team with 17 RBI and teaming with Theall to provide two starting pitchers with ERA under 1.5 in more than 29 innings pitched.

Yet he cited another senior as a catalyst. Chase Hunns raised his average from .200 to .354.

“Chase Hubbs really stepped up. Every morning in the off season he was down at the cages at 5 a.m. with our coach. You could tell he wanted it, and that work showed up,” Cartee said.

Brown said senior Tony Tejada has been key in a couple of big spots.

More than experience, a better approach at the plate has the Skyhawks in this position. Deer Valley hit .267 last year and now bats .347. 

“I was really excited about our pitching staff. I wondered where we would score the runs we needed,” Rice said. “We worked so hard on our hitting and coach R.J. Rudder focused on not settling for fly balls. Now we hit the ball hard and believe good things are going to happen. That approach has been key.”

Brown said making the playoffs is a huge deal for this team, since none of the current players have played a postseason game.

Now the goal is to win and take their chances Saturday against a top seed.

“This year is different. The obvious answer is to win state, but to make it past this play-in round would be huge,” Cartee said.

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