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Mark Minicozzi is a relative newcomer to Maricopa, starting his batting-glove business after a 12-year playing career. Photos by Kyle Norby

About PrimalGloves.com
Batting gloves, fielding gloves, football gloves, accessories
Manufactured in Pakistan
Contents: leather, pitted leather, Lycra spandex, nylon, quad-flex creasing

Though all games from Little League to the majors have been stopped by COVID-19, baseball is still America’s pastime. From the roaring crowds to a player’s competitive spirit, Primal Gloves founder Mark Minicozzi believes baseball loses all meaning if you aren’t having fun.

His batting-glove designs bring whimsy and attitude to an often-unnoticed aspect of the game. He runs the business from his home in Maricopa, where he and his wife have lived a little over a year.

A professional ballplayer for 12 years, Minicozzi cites playing for the San Francisco Giants and the Washington Nationals farm systems as major career highlights.

“I grew up in the Philadelphia area,” Minicozzi said. “I played college baseball down in North Carolina at East Carolina University, and I ended up getting drafted my junior year, which brought me out to the lovely Scottsdale, Arizona.”

After years of baseball, Mark knew he was getting older after a game injury in 2017 landed him in a boot for three months.

“I’ve had about six surgeries. My body was hurting.” Minicozzi explained. “I ended up going back to school and finished my degree in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and facilities management from East Carolina University.”

During his pl aying days when not affiliated with a major league club, Minicozzi noticed the outrageous price of batting gloves when buying his own. Ripping through Nike gloves every few games, he could not justify purchasing just a single pair for prices upwards of $65.

Minicozzi said the experience got him thinking: “How can I put my imprint on the game and make it better? I can develop a better glove.”

Minicozzi spent months letting professionals test his glove prototypes and asked for feedback on how to make them better. With different colors and designs, he wanted his batting gloves to stand out from the plain and generic black-and-white offered by bigger athletic brands. Fast forward to 2018, after much research and testing, to the birth of his company, Primal Gloves.

Customer Britt Hinklin said quality does not have to come with a big price tag. With a 14-year-old son, Hinklin saw the excitement a unique batting glove brought.

“My son had a pair of those gloves and tried them out. I’m telling you, he loved them,” Hinklin said with a laugh. “It’s kind of surprising, with Mark being able to put that product out there right around the same price, if not cheaper than the high-volume ones that you get at Dick’s or other sporting goods stores.”

With a website up and running as well as an engaging social media presence, Minicozzi’s vision for a more exciting and quality batting glove became a reality.

Minicozzi said the logo of a fierce lion always came first in design concepts. “The lion is the king of the jungle. He is the top of the food chain. He wants to be the best.” He said. “The primal lion is the top, the best of the best.”

Prices range from $30-$35 and allow customers to choose from existing designs or a custom choice, accompanied by an option to have the player’s name, number or whatever else they would like stitched in. Minicozzi says turnaround time on orders is eight to 10 days.

Scaling up quickly, Minicozzi says supply and demand is the main obstacle at the moment. He plans on building an office in a corner of his backyard.

“The growth we’ve had over the last probably eight to 12 months, we went from selling about $150-$200 a day to where we’re doing right around $3,000 a day,” he explained. “I hope by the end of this year to have that office up and being able to make it where you can come to make your glove right on the spot.”

With business continuing to boom, Primal Gloves has ventured into multiple products, such as catching gloves, hats and other apparel. Even farther into the future, Minicozzi sees himself establishing an instructional baseball academy in Maricopa.

“We haven’t even really got into the community yet. We got married in October, so that sort of ruled our life for about six months, but now we’re getting settled in here,” Minicozzi said. “As we grow, a place for people to train and stuff like that, that would be my long-term goal.”

Admitting to being a prankster during his career, he wants baseball to be an enjoyable experience, not an expensive one.

“The biggest thing for me is, you know, we want to make it affordable so every kid can enjoy it. We also want to make it fun,” Minicozzi said with a smile.

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.


Under normal circumstances, Arizona high school athletes would be prepping for state competition right now, trying to earn a spot in tournament play or qualify for the championships.

Geared up with a full coaching staff and hard-working athletes, Maricopa High School track and field had to put on the brakes. With only one major meet under their belts, the Rams, like every other team in the state, were knocked out of competition by the coronavirus outbreak.

It shuttered schools and training facilities and then the entire season. For seniors hoping not only for a last hurrah but also a chance at athletic scholarships, it was a huge monkey wrench.

“Zanaa Ramirez has a good shot to make it to the NCAA level,” head track coach Corey Nelson said. “Katherine Gores has a good shot to make it to the collegiate level.”

Before the season collapsed, both had personal bests in the big Aztec Invitational at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. Gores, a javelin specialist, placed second with a throw of 99-7. Ramirez, who is also on Nelson’s club team, placed eighth in the 400-meter dash in 1:03.57.

“I’m a little frustrated,” Ramirez said. “We were doing really well so far, and my teammates worked really hard.”

Also not knowing she was wrapping up her senior season, Daijah Scott had personal records in the 100-meter dash, finishing 13th in 13.35, and in the 100-meter hurdles, eighth in 17.63.

While Ramirez was finishing ninth in the 800-meter run, fellow senior Coreyuna Mitchell-Shephard was running a personal record 2:56.43 in 42nd place. She also PR’d in the 400 at 1:08.64 to finish 31st. Meanwhile, senior RyAnn Liermann was Maricopa’s top finisher in the discus in 14th place with a throw of 76-7 and in shot put in 21st place with 25-5.5.

Gores was 12th in the triple jump in 29-1.75. Senior Chloe Luiz was 19th in the girls’ pole vault at six feet. Amoni James was 37th in the long jump in 11-3.

The boys’ track and field team had fewer seniors competing, but they were getting workouts. Steel Lewis was 12th in the pole vault with a vault of 11-0. Quinton Stapleton was 44th in the 3200-meter run and 49th in the 1600. Kian Carroll was 46th in the 3200.

Friday would have been their final warmup before the state championships, the major Hohokam Invitational at Westwood High.

“That’s when we start putting down fast times, qualifying for state and we’re at our best potential,” Nelson said.

He came into the season with a full staff of two throw coaches, a miler coach and a team manager. Now they are turning their minds toward the 2020-21 school year, and Nelson, by expertise a sprint coach, is picking up cross-country coaching.

Over in MHS softball, coach Jason Crawford has submitted his resignation at the end of this school year. The girls were off to a strong start with a 7-3 record. They had outscored their opponents 68-32.

The seniors were doing their part on a team that was strong across all grades.

Keilee Keys-Carrillo was batting .452 with five runs batted in through 10 games. Kayla Occhiline had her average at .364 in seven games played. Kiana Miller-Gomez had five RBIs.

The MHS baseball team had a 4-5 record for the abbreviated season. Senior Austin Rapp was batting .368 with seven hits. His classmate Parker Hunsaker batted .304, scored 11 runs, had seven hits and four stolen bases. Jackson Lindseth scored eight runs for his final season.

While girls’ tennis boasted no seniors, the boys’ team leaned on three in its short, 1-3 season. Noah Panter had a singles record of 2-2 and 1-3 in doubles. Ethan Atkinson and Angel Urbina Noriega were 0-4 and 1-3.

Maricopa High School varsity baseball head coach Brad Vericker. Photo by Kyle Norby

With baseball season under way, no one is more excited to play some ball than Maricopa High School’s new varsity coach, Brad Vericker. Having been a volunteer coach for MHS previously when he worked in fuel and oil sales, he is now a full-time teacher at the high school and was eager to get back on the field when Maricopa varsity’s coach Andrew Pollak stepped down after many years.

Starting his baseball career at Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Vericker went on to play college and professional baseball. Watch the video below to get to know more about Coach Vericker:

The Rams started the season by going 2-2 in their home tourney, the Tomas Pinon/Matt Huffman Memorial Tournament, last week. They defeated Tempe, 12-5, and McClintock, 7-5, before losing to Mesa, 12-1, and Seton Catholic, 13-5.

Monday, MHS started the regular season with a home loss to Paradise Valley, 8-2. Junior Johnathan Leyva and sophomore Kahleb Bell each had two hits. Senior Parker Hunsaker scored both runs for Maricopa. Bell started the game on the mound and took the loss.

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Rockford University

A graduate of Maricopa High School has been named Baseball Position Player of the Week in the Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference.

Christian Garcia, a junior at Rockford University in Rockford, Illinois, had a big opening week for the Regents’ baseball team and was named Regent of the Week prior to the conference award. Garcia, a 2016 graduate of MHS, hit .615 with a .688 on-base percentage and a 1.385 slugging percentage to lead Rockford to a 4-0 start.

Garcia opened the weekend with four-hit performance that included two home runs, three runs scored and four runs driven in. He then concluded the weekend by going 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, a run scored and three runs driven in. For the week, Garcia tallied eight hits, three home runs, one double, five runs scored, eight runs driven in and three walks.

This marks the first time Garcia has been honored by the conference with a weekly award during his collegiate career. He transferred to Rockford from Mesa Community College. He is majoring in sports management. Rockford University is a private, four-year university and plays in NCAA Division III.


Baseball is not just a sport but a lifestyle for Maricopa eighth grader Brody Matcuk.

Brody Matcuk. Photo by Kyle Norby

July 15, Brody saw his name on the 13U southwest regional team roster for the USA baseball team. With only 34 kids being chosen to compete, it is a major achievement. The next step will be attending the USA Baseball camp in Cary, North Carolina, starting Aug. 7.

Brody has played baseball ever since he was 5 years old. He recalls simply picking up a bat and wanting to play. He also attributes much of his athletic success to the support of his mother and father.

“Thanks to my parents, they looked into it and it seemed cool. I wanted to try out and see what it was like, and I really loved it. I had fun and I met new people, so I really liked it,” Brody said.

Between practicing with his club team two to three days a week in Mesa and working with a local coach, Brody is a busy kid. When asked what he does in the small amounts of free time he has, he said, “If I can, hang out with friends. But I’ll usually play games or swing a bat around the house.”

Receiving a spot on the USA National Baseball team is no easy task, and Brody has put in the time and effort to play with the best. The process consisted of two major tryouts that he participated in down in California.

“For the first try-out, we did infield, outfield, and hitting. For the second tryout we had primary positions and hitting,” Brody said.

By the second tryout, he was able to connect with other kids and made a few friends, with some making it on the team as well.

Brody’s father, Steve Matcuk, who played professionally for teams like the Portland Rockies, has been by his son’s side offering first-hand experience and unwavering support.

“First is dedication. A lot of time and dedication,” Steve said, “I know what it entails, the dedication it takes. I talk to him all the time about, you know, the things that he does now is not so much for this moment in time; it’s more for when you get older.”

With so much going on, Brody’s mother Nikki has been endlessly proud of her son.

“It’s just pretty much the coolest thing ever. It makes my heart smile to see everything that’s now started to fall into place,” Nikki said. “I know how much he’s wanted this and how hard he’s worked. Since he was little, he was always working to be the best Brody; to be the best that he could be. He really inspires me.”

Nikki said Brody keeps her motivated, and they often go to the gym together.

With the baseball camp coming up in only two weeks, Brody will be playing as an outfielder and is eager to get started. Steve said this part of the USA baseball division is known as the “identification series,” which involves not just competing in games, but on-field evaluations and skill testing. The long-term goal is to earn spots in the 14U development series team and climb up to the 15U team, which travels the world and competes against teams from other countries.

When asked if he was nervous to be leaving for North Carolina, Brody said, “Not nervous, just excited.”

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Maricopa High School baseball players were honored in all-region voting for 5A San Tan.

Senior Jose Leyva was named Second Team as a catcher. Leyva batted .276 with 16 hits, eight runs, six runs batted in, a double and a triple. He was also a pitcher and was in the region top 10 in strikeouts with 41. His record was 2-3 with an earned run average of 5.47.

Seniors Nico Bandin, Devin Fiala and Trey Keel and sophomores Jacob Keel, Johnathan Leyva and Isaiah Peters were all named Honorable Mention.

Maricopa finished the season 7-16 (0-10).

Cameron Pehrson of Campo Verde was named Region Player of the Year after leading 5A San Tan in batting average, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Casteel’s Matt Perisho was named the San Tan region’s Coach of the Year. Casteel and Campo Verde suffered upsets in the first round of the state championship bracket.

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Maricopa High School varsity baseball finished a difficult 7-16 season Thursday at home with a 6-3 loss to Gilbert under a full moon. That tapped a nine-game losing streak triggered by struggles at the plate. Nonetheless, despite a bug infestation, the game was a time to celebrate the Rams’ seniors, who threw out the first pitch to their parents to start the game and were further recognized after the game with a special ceremony.

At season’s end junior Austin Rapp’s .367 batting average, garnered in a little more than half of the games on the schedule, led the team. Sophomore Jacob Keel batted .300 and led the team in runs batted in and home runs.

Senior Nico Bandin batted .289 and was the team leader in hits. He also stole four bases. Senior Jose Leyva batted .291, had 16 hits and five RBI. Senior Devin Fiala and sophomore Johnathan Leyva led the team in doubles with six each. Sophomore Isaiah Peters was the team leader in stolen bases with six.

Senior Christian Johnson had the Rams’ best earned run average at 3.37. He also had three saves. Jose Leyva struck out 41 batters, and Trey Keel struck out 20.


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Maricopa High School’s varsity baseball team is staying around .500 after a dramatic home win Monday was followed by a Tuesday tournament loss. Hosting Independence Monday, the Rams led most of the game, but had to break a tie in the bottom of the seventh for the 4-3 win.

Maricopa had 10 hits in the game, including doubles from senior Trey Keel and sophomore Jacob Keel. In six innings of work, senior Jose Leyva gave up just one earned run while striking out eight and walking four. He and senior Devin Fiala each had two hits in the game.

Tuesday, the Rams fell to 6A’s Red Mountain (6-3) in five innings, 20-4, during the Bob Everett Classic. That put Maricopa’s overall record at 5-5.

Through 10 games, junior Austin Rapp is batting .438, and sophomore Johnathan Leyva has a batting average of .310. Senior Nico Bandin leads the team with 12 hits, and Johnathan Leyva and Fiala each have nine.

Jose Leyva has the most time on the mound, with 16 innings pitched and leads the team in strikeouts with 20. Trey Keel has pitched 14 innings and has 17 strikeouts.


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The Maricopa High School baseball and softball tournaments scheduled to open the season this week, have been canceled due to inclement weather.

The Rams baseball team did get in one game of the Pinon-Huffman tournament, a 13-1 loss to Tempe on Wednesday.



The Maricopa High School baseball and softball teams start of their seasons by hosting home tournaments this week.

The Pinon-Huffman Baseball Tournament is Feb. 20-23 in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

Wednesday’s competition begins at 3:30 p.m. with McClintock playing Poston Butte, followed at 6 p.m. by Maricopa against Tempe. Meanwhile, Casa Grande is hosting Seton Catholic, Dobson and Apache Junction.

Play continues Thursday and Friday with the same game times. Maricopa plays Poston Butte at 6 p.m. Thursday and McClintock at 6 p.m. Friday. Saturday, the top four from the Maricopa and Casa Grande sites play.

The 12th annual Krystin Diehl Softball Tournament will take place Feb. 22-23 at Maricopa High School.

Teams playing in the tournament include Florence, Higley, Maricopa, Mountain Point, McClintock and Yuma Catholic.

Pool play games start on Friday at 4:00 PM. Bracket tournament action begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with the championship game slated to start at 3 p.m.

For both tournaments, admission for adults is $5, students $3, age 6 and under free. AIA Passes only are accepted.

For more information on the tournament call Maricopa High School at 520-568-8100, ext. 4008

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Submitted photo

A Maricopa High School baseball player has signed on to be a member of the inaugural baseball team for Park University – Gilbert.

Nico Bandin, an infielder, has played on the varsity team since his freshman team. Through his first three season with the Rams, he has a .927 fielding average, 34 hits and 20 runs batted in.

Park U – Gilbert is a new campus sprung from the flagship campus in Parkville, Missouri, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in 48 areas. Park is recruiting athletes for the 2019-20 intercollegiate seasons and is applying for membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for small colleges.

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Taylor Belcher (from left), Tyler Belcher and Mason Williams signed letters to play for Ventura College. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Five Maricopa High School students signed letters of intent for college athletics Wednesday.

Playing baseball together since seventh grade, three MHS baseball players plan to play for the same college.

Taylor Belcher, Tyler Belcher and Mason Williamson signed letters of intent to play for Ventura College in Ventura, California. The Pirates compete in the California Community College Athletics Association and are 20-19 with one game left in the regular season. Ventura’s program has produced professional baseball players Justin De Fratus and Zachary Thornton.

Brian Garcia (left) and Kyle O’Hare (with coach Courtney Kellenaers. MHS photo

MHS soccer players Kyle O’Hare and Brian Garcia signed letters of intent with Gateway Community College in Phoenix, part of Maricopa Community Colleges. The Geckos’ home games are played at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex. They finished their 2017 season 5-15.

The Rams infield, (rom left) Mason Williamson, Taylor Belcher, Tyler Belcher, Nico Bandin, Devin Fiala and Jose Leyva, gathers on the mound. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s varsity baseball team ended its season Friday with a 10-9 loss at Williams Field.

That left the Rams’ overall record at 11-16. They finished fourth in 5A Metro and were ranked 28th, four slots away from qualifying for the Arizona Interscholastic Association play-in.

“The season was a lot of fun. This is a great group of young men,” head coach Andrew Pollak. “I am really proud of our seniors. They put everything they had into this school, program and city.”

The Rams touted seven seniors this season, most of them starters.

Senior Carter Paine led the team in hitting with a .430 average. He also drove in 17 runs and stole 13 bases. On the mound, he was 4-4 in nine appearances with an earned run average of 5.37. He struck out 53 in 44.1 innings and gave up 50 hits.

Senior Steven Gonzales batted .424, second best on the team. He led in RBIs with 18 and hits with 36. He was 1-3 in 10 appearances on the mound and had a team-best 3.17 ERA. He struck out 29 and gave up 24 hits.

Senior Taylor Belcher hit .324 in 26 games. He totaled 23 hits, including two home runs and five doubles, and drove 15 runs. He pitched in eight games for a record of 1-2 with a save.

Senior Tyler Belcher was 3-4 on the mound with a 3.73 ERA. He struck out 43 and allowed 48 hits. Tyler batted .282, hitting six doubles.

Senior catcher Mason Williamson’s fielding percentage of .972 was fifth in 5A Metro and led Maricopa. He batted .255 with two doubles and 10 RBIs.

Playing in 10 games, senior Kevin McDill batted .375. In 4.2 innings pitched, he struck out four batters.

Though the team relied heavily on the upperclassmen, the season wasn’t all about the seniors.

Junior first baseman Jose Leyva batted .300 and hit a team-leading eight doubles. Nico Bandin, a junior second baseman, battled .269. Beside him at shortstop, junior Devin Fiala batted .241 and had six doubles and a triple.

“This is a great time to be a Maricopa Ram baseball player,” Pollak said. “Nowhere else is a 13-18-year- old going to play on a better field than Matt Huffman field right here in our great city.”

Pollak said the coaches are excited about the younger players, both those already playing varsity and those coming up from the junior varsity team, which posted a much-improved record of 8-8 this season.

“The kids are going to be coached the right way and learn things that go way beyond the playing field,” he said. “We do things that are so much more than the win and loss record. Our kids play the game with respect, they learn to play hard and make each other better people.

“The only thing we will ever guarantee is, when your child spends four years in this program, they are going to leave with a lifetime of memories and be a better person because of their time playing for Maricopa High School.”

Photos by Victor Moreno

High school varsity spring sports are under way. Maricopa High School introduces a new sport in beach volleyball while other sports hope to get back into state contention.

Sequoia Pathway Baseball
CAA Division II Region II
March 2 v. WSST 5 p.m.
March 6 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
March 9 v. El Dorado 4 p.m.
March 21 v. South Pointe 4 p.m.
March 26 at ASU Prep Poly 5 p.m.
March 27 at HA-Mesa 4:15 p.m.
April 3 at EVAC 4 p.m.
April 5 at Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 7 v. ALA-Ironwood 11 a.m.
April 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 11 v. Canyon State 4 p.m.

Sequoia Pathway Softball
CAA Division II Region I
March 1 v. ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
March 7 at Imagine Prep Surprise 4 p.m.
March 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4 p.m.
April 2 at Tri-City College Prep 4 p.m.
April 4 v. ALA-Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 5 at ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
April 10 v. Mission Heights 4 p.m.
April 12 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
April 17 v. South Ridge 4 p.m.
April 19 at Paradise Valley Christian 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Baseball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Sierra Linda 3:45 p.m.
March 2 v. Desert Edge 3:45 p.m.
March 5 v. Glendale 3:45 p.m.
March 7 v. Ironwood 4 p.m.
March 10-13 Bob Everett Spring Break Classic at Highland HS
March 21 at Vista Grande 6 p.m.
March 22 at Mesquite 4 p.m.
March 26 at Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 27 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 29 at Casa Grande 4 p.m.
April 3 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 5 v. Verrado 3:45 p.m.
April 6 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 10 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 11 v. Ironwood 6:30 p.m.
April 12 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 17 at McClintock 4 p.m.
April 19 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 20 at Williams Field 3:45 p.m.

Maricopa High School Softball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 at Sierra Linda 4 p.m.
March 2 at Desert Edge6 p.m.
March 5 at Glendale 4 p.m.
March 6 v. Vista Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 8 v. Williams Field 3:45 p.m.
March 19 v. Mesquite 3:45 p.m.
March 27 at Kellis 4 p.m.
March 29 v. Casa Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 30 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
April 3 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 5 at Verrado 4 p.m.
April 6 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 10 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 11 at Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 12 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 17 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 19 at McClintock 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Track & Field
AIA Division II
March 7 at Chaparral 4 p.m.
March 10 at Desert Tune-Up (Mountain View Marana) 8 a.m.
March 21 at McClintock 3 p.m.
March 22 at Schuster Jones Under-Class Showcase 12 p.m.
March 28 at Maricopa Twilight 3:30 p.m.
April 13 at Hohokam Invitational 9:30 a.m.

Maricopa High School Boys’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 2 v. Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 at Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 22 at Williams Field 3:30 p.m.
March 27 v. Cibola 3:30 p.m.
March 28 v. Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 at San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 at Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 at La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 v. Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 at Kofa 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Girls’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Casteel 3:30 p.m.
March 5 at Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 v. Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 27 at Cibola 3 p.m.
March 28 at Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 v. San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 v. Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 v. La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 at Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 v. Kofa 3:30 p.m.
April 16 v. Williams Field 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Beach Volleyball
AIA Division I Section IV (remaining schedule)
March 5 v. Casteel at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 26 v. Millennium at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 28 at Willow Canyon at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 2 at Shadow Ridge at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 4 at Perry at Seville Golf & Country Club 6:30 p.m.
April 9 v. Verrado at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 11 v. Dysart at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 13 v. Hamilton at Copper Sky (Senior Night) 4 p.m.
April 16 at Mesquite High School 4 p.m.



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The Maricopa varsity Rams take the field for the first time Wednesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Baseball’s season opener started at home Wednesday against Tempe High during the school’s annual Matt Huffman Tournament.

The tourney began Wednesday afternoon between Dobson and Poston Butte and runs through Saturday.

Rams head coach Andrew Pollak said he’s excited about the many players on the team with the potential to have a big year, some of them including his returning seniors.

“They’ve been through the program for four years now, and they could’ve easily chosen to leave town and go to a different school, but they stayed here and have done a good job representing our city,” Pollak said.

Four-year varsity player Carter Paine is slated to be No. 1 on the mound this year across from the Rams’ leader behind the plate, catcher Mason Williamson.

Belcher twins, Taylor and Tyler, will also return. Both pitchers and fielders, they are among those who Pollak said will have a “huge impact” on the field this year.

Senior Kevin McDill will return to the mound and the outfield for the Rams, and Andres Gusse is the team’s “tremendous first baseman,” Pollak said.

The team’s retention of quality players is what Pollak said is a testament to the program and its division.

“We play really good competition,” Pollak said. “We don’t have any cupcakes on our schedule.”

Rams play Poston Butte Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and finish the tourney Saturday with a game at 12:30 p.m.

Post-tournament play begins March 1 at home against Sierra Linda.

Tyler Belcher started for Maricopa against Tempe. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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American Legion Baseball - Maricopa. Submitted photo

The Maricopa American Legion Baseball team, sponsored by Post 133, finished first in the region to qualify for the state championship tournament. Round 1 of state starts Saturday.

What: American Legion #133 Baseball vs. Maricopa/Ak-Chin Leaders
When: July 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Copper Sky Regional Park

In the meantime, the community is invited to watch the Maricopa team take on City of Maricopa and Ak-Chin elected officials, police and fire and community business leaders in a softball game set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Copper Sky. Helen’s Catering will have dinner items for sale for those who want to make a night of it.

Managing this year’s team are Maricopa High School graduates Jordan Gusse and Jesus Orci-Vega, who are undergraduates at Arizona State University, and Mountain Point graduate Jorge A. Romero.

Andres Gusse and Steven Gonzales led the team with batting averages of .571. Marcos Cano threw a perfect game and Andrew Talness was the team-leader in steals. Talsness, Gonzales, Andrews Gusse and Taylor Belcher all hit home runs during the season.

The team also included Kevin McDill, Mason Williamson, Jose Leyva, Elijah Compton, Jackson Stensgard, Joseph Talsness, Noah Huffaker, Renzo Silva, Tyler Belcher and Larry Tran.

American Legion Baseball was founded in 1925 and has taught hundreds of thousands of young Americans the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship. The program is also a promoter of equality, making teammates out of young athletes regardless of their income levels or social standings.

submitted photo

Duster players heading to Colorado include Ethan Chavez (left) and Maverick McDonald. Photos by Mason Callejas

One of Maricopa’s own youth baseball teams has secured a place in a USSSA World Series tournament in Denver, Colorado, in July, giving the kids a chance to compete among some of the West’s toughest teams.

The Maricopa Dusters, age 11 and under, qualified for the Under Armour/USSSA Global World Series last fall with wins at both the Veterans Salute NIT in Peoria and Thanksgiving Shootout in Phoenix. Their momentum continued through the spring, and a recent upset at the Arizona USSSA State Championship solidified their reputation with a 5-0 record, scoring an average of 10 runs a game.

Dusters head coach Marty McDonald believes these numbers prove the team is athletically well-rounded, but for him it’s their resolve that makes them truly unique.

“We’ve been in situations where we’ve been down by several runs and we’ve come back to win games,” McDonald said.

They’re strong hitters and pitchers, McDonald added, but it’s “their heart, their character and their desire to play the game” that could take them all the way this year.

Assistant coach Randy Richardson feels the team’s strengths lay in their ability to field the ball, allowing an average of only four runs a game during the state tournament.

At age 11, it’s easy to get distracted, he said, so as long as they concentrate on their objectives and recognize where they fall short, he has no doubt they can take home the big win in Denver.

The players, some of whom have played baseball since they could walk, seem to already know how to help each other stay focused, and most importantly, how to help each other improve.

Submitted photo

“We know each other so good that we can discover what [each other’s] comfort zone is and we can help them push it,” second baseman and outfielder Maverick McDonald said.

Many of these young athletes have played on the same team for three years or longer, and now with the Dusters being announced as the official youth club feeder program for Maricopa High School, the kids can look forward to many more years backing up each other on the field.

“It’s good that we know each other [so well],” 11-year-old Ethan Chavez said, “because we’re probably going to be playing with each other for a while.”

This is the Dusters’ second trip to a USSSA World Series. In 2016, they competed in Dallas and finished fifth out of 46 teams.

July 20 is their first scheduled game in this year’s tournament. Their opponents will likely be released a week or two prior to the tournament.

Dusters coaches are Marty McDonald (left) and Randy Richardson. Photo by Mason Callejas

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Future high school baseball players wrapped up a three-day camp at Matt Huffman Field Friday morning. Athletes between third and eighth grades participated in the annual Maricopa High School Rams Youth Baseball Camp fielding balls and practicing their swings under the direction of Coach Andrew Pollak and staff.

Perhaps most popular was the sliding exercise, where players traded uniforms for swim trunks in a chance to cool down.

The Dusters baseball club has set itself up as a "feeder" program for Maricopa High School. Submitted

The Maricopa Dusters, a local club baseball team, joined forces with the baseball program at Maricopa High School to become the official youth club feeder program for the high school. The alignment is a strategic effort designed to coordinate and improve baseball instruction and play within the Maricopa community.

Maricopa once experienced a rich baseball history with several MLB teams holding tryouts many years ago. While those opportunities have subsided due to changes by MLB, the history of the baseball in Maricopa often goes unnoticed. Locally, the Dusters are making their second-straight USSSA World Series Appearance this summer, competing in the Under Armour Global World Series. Additionally, a local youth player is competing in the USSSA All-American Games this summer in Florida. 

“We are super excited to begin this partnership with the Dusters,” Maricopa Rams head coach Andrew Pollak stated. “Maricopa is a great city with some very good baseball talent. We want to continue to grow that talent pool and have a positive impact on the youth in our community. We recognize the talent the Dusters and other teams offer and we want to inject a new-found enthusiasm for the sport of baseball. This is going to provide some great learning opportunities and memories for the young ones in our city.”

To help facilitate this change, the Dusters and Rams will collaborate efforts that positively impact all local kids in baseball and create a stronger development pipeline. The Dusters will seek to expand with multiple teams in Maricopa at the club and novice level. For those players not yet ready for club action, the newly-formed Dusters Academy will help increase their baseball awareness, skills and development.

“We want to make Maricopa a baseball town and this is the how we start to accomplish that goal,” Dusters head coach Marty McDonald said. “If a family in Maricopa truly understands the actual path of baseball development from Little League to club to high school, it really will allow for the player to properly develop and increase their enthusiasm for the sport. Further, we want to provide coaches training and support for those who want to help but might need some seasoning and mentorship. It’s really a win-win situation for everyone in the community.”

Players in the program will receive instruction from former professional players, college players and college coaches, who make up the coaching staff for the Rams and Dusters. The program will be open to boys and girls ages 7 to 18 and costs will vary based on level of competition. Cost structure will vary based on level of play.

For more information or to place your son or daughter on the “prospect” list please email organizers at maricopadusters@gmail.com or call the Dusters at 480-236-6394.


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Maricopa High School baseball coach Andrew Pollack is hosting the annual Rams Youth Camp on June 28-30.

The camp is for kids entering third through eighth grade. The camp is 8-10 a.m. each day at the high school baseball field. Participants are asked to arrive by 7:45 a.m. on the first day.

Bring baseball cleats, tennis shoes, baseball pants and belt, hat, glove and bat. Catchers are encouraged to bring their gear.

Cost is $50 per player. Makes checks payable to MHS Rams Homerun. Find registration form here.

The camp will focus on base running, defense, offense and arm care. There will be a Q&A period with the Rams coaching staff and current players.

For more information, contact coach Pollack at apollak@musd20.org.

From left, Juliette Hawthorn, Carter Paine and Jackson Stensgard were named All-Region First Team. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

In 5A Metro voting this week, eight Maricopa High School baseball and softball players were named to All-Region teams.

Junior Carter Paine and senior Jackson Stensgard were voted First Team in baseball. Junior Taylor Belcher and sophomore Devin Fiala were Second Team, and junior Tyler Belcher and sophomore Malachi Hogg received honorable mention.

Maricopa High School placed the following athletes on the All-Region Teams:

In softball, senior Juliette Hawthorn was named First Team, and sophomore Chantel Holquin was Second Team as a pitcher.

Paine batted .408, and 12 runs batted in and scored 29 runs. He hit six doubles and a team-leading three triples. He drew 19 walks and had the team’s best on-base percentage of .536. He led the team in steals with nine. He was a workhorse on the mound, pitching 46.1 innings for a 2-5 record. He struck out 40 and walked 28.

Stensgard played in just 18 of the team’s 26 games and batted .476. He hit seven doubles and three of the Rams’ five home runs. He batted in 15 runs and scored another 10. He pitched in six games and 1-5. He struck out 20 and walked 16.

Taylor Belcher hit .325 while playing third base. He had a home run and five doubles and drove in 23 runs. He pitched in nine games and was 0-1. He struck out 11 and walked nine.

Fiala batted .347 and drove in 11 runs. He stole five bases. He turned 12 double plays.

Tyler Belcher hit .288 and scored 15 runs. As a pitcher, he had the Rams’ only winning record, with four wins and two losses in 31.1 innings. He struck out 25 and walked 24.

New to the team, Hogg batted .349, with six doubles and 14 RBI in 24 games.

For the softball Rams, Hawthorn led the team with a .494 average in 26 games. Among her 40 hits were five triples and seven doubles. She also had one of the team’s two home runs this season.

Holquin batted .339. She had 21 hits, including eight doubles, and scored 15 runs. She was error-free in the field. On the mound, Holquin was 3-14, pitching 92.2 innings. She struck out 23 and walked six.

Submitted photo

One of Maricopa’s own youth baseball players is seeking help from the community to assist with expenses that have arisen from being selected to play in a national tournament in Florida.

Nicolas Barreras, 11, is one of four Arizona players selected in his age group to play in the ESPN World Wide Sports annual baseball tournament in Orlando Aug. 6-12. However, steep travel expenses associated with the trip are more than the family can afford, and could prevent him from participating.

To relieve the financial strain on his family, Nicolas has started multiple fund-raising campaigns. His efforts include selling T-shirts, starting a GoFundMe page and hosting a car wash.

The carwash to benefit Nicolas will be held Saturday, April 29, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. behind the Maricopa Arby’s at 21600 N. John Wayne Parkway.

All in, after airfare, lodging and food for both him and his parents, Nicolas’ family will need around $6,000 for the trip, according to past participants. Nicolas’ mother, Toni Barreras, is hopeful the multifaceted fund-raising efforts by her son will get him to the tournament.

“It was so unexpected,” Toni said. “We just took him to try out, and when he got it we were just like…(gasping).”

Submitted photo

To be recognized as an All-American Player by the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, the organization that selected Nicolas for the tournament, is an extreme honor he does not take for granted. Nonetheless, for Nicolas this is more than just a competition.

“I was just so surprised,” Nicolas said. “To make friends and go [to Florida], I just think it’ll be fun.”

Nicolas is a renaissance man on the field, pitching, and playing first base and outfield. The latter, he said, is his favorite as he likes to show off with a diving catch from time to time.

Any help will mean a lot to him and his family, Nicolas said, and would help him pursue his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player.

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SeniPhoto by Raquel Hendricksonor Jackson Stensgard got the win on the mound Friday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Accumulating 10 hits, the Maricopa High School baseball team defeated 5A Metro rival Ironwood 12-2 at home Friday.

Coming off a dismal loss to Mesquite the night before, the win evened the Rams’ overall record to 7-7, a non-tournament record of 4-2.

Maricopa scored six runs in the second inning and gradually added enough to employ the 10-run rule by the bottom of the sixth for the victory against Ironwood (3-8). The Ram attack came from the plate and the mound, and almost everyone had a hit.

Senior Jackson Stensgard batted 2-for-3, including a double, and knocked in three runs. He also pitched all six innings, giving up five hits and an earned run and striking out eight.

Sophomore Devin Fiala was also 2-for-3 and picked up an RBI. Sophomore Malachi Hogg smacked a two-run double. Junior Carter Paine, junior Taylor Belcher and senior Marcos Cano all also drove in runs.

Against Mesquite the day before, the Rams had managed just three hits in the 12-0 loss. They struck out 11 times against sophomore Davis Heller. Meanwhile the Wildcats tagged Maricopa for three home runs.

Maricopa is batting .314 as a team this season, led by Paine’s .452. Taylor Belcher leads in runs batted in with 14. The team ERA is 5.70. Paine leads in innings pitched with 24 and a third and strikeouts with 21.

The Rams are 1-0 in 5A Metro and next travel to Kellis on Tuesday.

Taylor Belcher, a junior, has been effective on the mound and at bat this season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Midway through their season, the Maricopa High School Rams have an even record of 6-6 on the baseball field and are gearing up for region play.

Outside of tournament competition, the Rams are 3-1. In those three victories, Maricopa put up double-digits against the opponents.

After jumping all over Glendale 12-2 on Monday, however, Maricopa dropped Wednesday’s cross-county game to Vista Grande, 5-0.

“We’ve been playing some good baseball,” head coach Andrew Pollak said. “Today obviously wasn’t one of those days, but we had four games last week where we did some really good things. We had a good game Monday night. Today’s just one of those days.”

The Rams have more than a week to practice for their next game, which is March 23 hosting Mesquite. After that, all but three of their games will be against 5A Metro region competition.

“Our team is really young. Before today they’d really been playing solid,” Pollak said.

That is a point of pride, but he is still looking for strong leadership to emerge on the team as competition gets intense over the next month. The Rams play all region teams twice. That includes McClintock, Ironwood, Raymond S. Kellis, Sunnyslope and Apollo.

“We’re in a good spot. We’ve got to take care of our region,” Pollak said.

In Monday’s route of Glendale, Maricopa scored three runs in the first inning. The Rams followed up with five in the fourth and four in the fifth to claim the game via the 10-run rule.

Sophomore Nico Bandin had two hits, drove in three runs and scored three. Senior Marcos Cano was 3-for-3 at the plate and picked up an RBI. Sophomore Devin Fiala and junior Taylor Belcher both had two RBIs. Senior Jackson Stensgard had the team’s only extra-base hit, a double.

Junior Tyler Belcher pitched four innings, striking out nine, for the victory. Only one of the two runs scored against him was earned.

In Wednesday’s loss at home to Vista Grande, the Rams could not get anything started offensively and had some defensive mistakes as well.  The Spartans clung to a 1-0 lead through four innings before breaking out with four more in the fifth.

The Rams managed just three hits, a double from sophomore Malachi Hogg and singles from Bandin and Stensgard.

Carter Paine pitched five innings, striking out four and walking five. Taylor Belcher pitched two innings.

Overall this season, Maricopa is batting .322. That is led by Paine’s .459 average through 12 games. Cano is hitting .400, and Taylor Belcher is batting .353. Bandin and sophomore Renzo Silva are at .324. Stensgard has played in only the last four games and is batting .462.

Paine has pitched 19 and a third innings and has a 2-2 record with an ERA of 4.34. He has struck out 19, given up 19 hits and walked 16. Tyler Belcher has thrown for 14 innings, giving up 11 runs for ERA of 5.50. He has struck out 17 and walked 11.

Feb. 22-25    Pinon-Huffman Tourney
Tempe                   W     4-3
Higley                    L     4-10
Dobson                  L     5-9
Apache Junction    W    11-7
March 2        Sierra Linda           W    10-2
March 3        Desert Edge           W    11-7
March 8-11   Boras Baseball Classic
Corona del Sol       L    0-5
Prescott                 L    3-14
Centennial            W    8-7
Arcadia                  L    2-5
March 13      Glendale               W    12-2
March 15      Vista Grande         L     0-5
March 23      Mesquite          4 p.m.    Home
March 24      Ironwood*        4 p.m.    Home
March 28      Kellis*              3:45       Away
March 30      Casa Grande    4 p.m.    Home
March 31      Kellis*             4 p.m.     Home
April 4          Sunnyslope*    4 p.m.    Home
April 6          Verrado            3:45      Away
April 7          Sunnyslope*    4 p.m.    Away
April 11        Apollo*            4 p.m.    Away
April 12        Ironwood*       3:45       Away
April 13        Apollo*            4 p.m.    Home
April 18        McClintock*        4 p.m.    Home
April 20        McClintock*        4 p.m.    Away
April 21        Williams Field    4 p.m.    Home

*5A Metro

The Maricopa Rams started the season Wednesday on their home field in the Huffman Tournament against Tempe. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School Varsity Baseball team will swing into their season today with the Pinon-Huffman inter-city tournament in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

2 Anthony Lumactod  – Sr
3 Nico Bandin – Soph
4 Isaac Herrera – Jr
5 Marcos Cano – Sr
6 Carter Paine – Jr
7 Renzo Silva – Soph
8 Mason Williamson – Jr
9 Jackson Stensgard – Sr
10 Jose Leyva – Soph
11 Devin Fiala – Soph
14 Tyler Belcher – Jr
15 Jonathan Aguilar – Soph
16 Kevin McDill – Jr
18 Taylor Belcher – Jr
23 Malachi Hogg – Soph
24 Andres Gusse – Jr
29 Trey Keel – Soph

The Rams will enter the eight-team pool-play style tournament competing over the next three days against three teams at Maricopa High School – Tempe, Higley and Dobson. The winners from each pool will then square off on Saturday against the winner of a four-team bracket in Casa Grande – Poston Butte, Casa Grande, Apache Junction and Marana.

Maricopa head varsity coach Andrew Pollak hopes the momentum from last year’s season will carry over to this season. However, this year, after the Arizona Interscholastic Association redrew the map for many districts, Pollak said, some of their new opponents could prove to be challenging.

“It’s going to be a tough region. We play a bunch of the west side schools,” Pollak said. “It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be tough.”

The line-up this year is relatively fresh with few returning upperclassmen, he said, a factor which adds to the challenge.

“Personnel-wise we’re pretty young,” Pollak said. “We have basically all sophomores and juniors that we’re going to play with, and one returning senior starter.”

Despite their age, Pollak feels the team’s defensive prowess is what will set them apart.

Junior pitcher Carter Paine
Junior pitcher Carter Paine

“I think defensively we’ll be pretty strong,” Pollak said. “We’ve got an infield that’s pretty solid and we’ve got some strong outfielders.”

The Ram’s hitting and pitching game is the only area of concern for Pollak, though he does have a strategy for that.

“We are going to have to find a way to score some runs though,” he said. “And [offensively] our guys are going to have to pitch to contact ground balls, or use the defense behind them. We’re not going to throw by anybody.”

The AIA also recently approved a proposal to dissolve the MHS freshman baseball program, a move which will likely mean more underclassman playing JV and varsity ball in the future.

Pinon-Huffman Tournament Schedule
@ Maricopa High School
Dobson v. Higley at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.
MHS v. Tempe at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Dobson v. Tempe at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23.
MHS v. Higley at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Higley v. Tempe at 3:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24.
MHS v. Dobson at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

@ Casa Grande High School
Apache Junction v. Poston Butte, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Casa Grande v. Apache Junction, 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Poston Butte v. Marana, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Marana v. Apache Junction, 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.
Casa Grande v. Marana, 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

2017 Schedule
Feb. 22-25    Pinon/Huffman Tournament    TBA      Home
Feb. 28           Sierra Linda                             3:45     Away
March 3           Desert Edge                            6:00     Away
March 8           Boras Classic                           TBA     Tempe
March 13         Glendale                                 7:00     Away
March 15         Vista Grande                           4:00     Home
March 23         Mesquite                                4:00     Home
March 24         Ironwood*                              4:00     Home
March 28         Kellis*                                    3:45     Away
March 30        Casa Grande                            4:00    Home
March 31        Kellis*                                     4:00    Home
April 4           Sunnyslope*                            4:00    Home
April 6           Verrado                                    3:45    Away
April 7           Sunnyslope*                           4:00    Away
April 11         Apollo*                                   4:00    Away
April 12         Ironwood*                               3:45    Away
April 13         Apollo*                                   4:00    Home
April 18         McClintock*                            4:00    Home
April 19         Williams Field (Senior Night)4:00    Home
April 20         McClintock*                            4:00    Away
*5A Metro

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The Maricopa Mavericks 10U Baseball Club is in competition in California this week. Submitted photo

Maricopa Mavericks 10U Club baseball team is traveling to San Diego today to compete in the Xtreme Baseball World Series. This event will have over 200 teams (ages 8-18) from 10 states and also a few teams from Mexico.

The Mavericks will have four pool play games and then enter a single-elimination bracket. Pool play starts Wednesday. This tournament is open level, which means any team on any playing level can enter.

The Mavericks competing are:
Ethan Chavez
Gavin Smith
JJ Meyers
Andrew Yogerst
Elijah Gutierrez
Nicolas Barreras
Leander Vale
Alex Vale
Anthony Delong
Austin Graffius
Kayden Reyna
Sebastian Hidrogo
Head coach Geno Chavez

Most sanctions the Mavericks play in have different classification levels based on the teams skill level. That usually starts off at AA, then AAA and then Majors, which is the highest level of play. There are 10 Majors level teams entered in our bracket, but Maricopa has played at this level most of the year. All of the Mavericks have played an age division above (11U) most of the year.

There will be championship rings awarded for first and second place.

“I’ve always been a strong believer in playing the best teams at the highest level,” coach Geno Chavez said. “We have taken first or second in every 10U tournament we played this past year.”

On Tuesday for opening day, the boys’ schedule includes:

* skills contest
* fly over and national anthem
* team introduction
* MLB Fanfest
* Pin Trading

Boys will also parade around Petco Park with all the teams participating in the World Series on Friday before a Padres v. Reds game.

“There are several World Series events to choose from by different baseball sanctions in other nearby states, but San Diego was an easy choice for a July tournament,” Chavez said. “We are used to practicing in 100-degree weather this last month and now we get to play in 75-degree weather!  Boys are excited to get out to California to compete. Two kids on the team have never seen the ocean and can’t wait.”

On Aug. 1, everyone has to move up an age level so this will be these boys’ last tournament at the 10U level. Mavericks have teams that compete at two age divisions (10U & 11U).

In the past year, the Maricopa Mavericks have competed in 20 tournaments and a total of 85 games. Follow the Mavericks at the Xtreme Baseball World Series at https://www.facebook.com/maricopamavericks/ and https://www.instagram.com/maricopamavericks/

The Maricopa Dusters are a 10U baseball club.

The Maricopa 10U baseball club the Dusters has been invited to join 470 teams at the USSSA World Series in Dallas July 7-12.

Of the 45 teams in their age bracket, they are ranked 11th. The Dusters are the only Arizona team participating after playing 70 games. Teams in their pool are from Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

“We’re excited for this opportunity,” coach Marty McDonald said. “These boys have worked their tails off all year, making sacrifices, practicing 2-3 times a week in addition to playing in a lot of tournaments.”

Since 2015, the Dusters’ record is 45-25-1. They have won a USSSA tournament title, finished second in USSSA/Nations five times, finished third in USSSA/Nations three times.

In three seasons in the Ahwatukee Pony League, Maricopa is 27-1-1, with three titles.

Most families will be driving the distance to Dallas, about 15 hours.

Shortstop Cody Gallardo said club ball is more intense than typical Little League competition but said teammates are fun and more encouraging.

“When we’re on, we’re on, and nobody can beat us,” Cody said.

Coaches are expected the trip to cost the team around $5,000. That includes tickets to a Texas Rangers game, where USSSA players will be recognized on the field in a parade of teams July 7. The Dusters started a GoFundMe account to raise funds at https://www.gofundme.com/dustersworldseries

“They are a great bunch of young men with bright baseball futures ahead of them,” McDonald said. “I speak for all of our coaches when I say this, but it’s truly an honor to coach them and share this moment with them.  Going to Dallas to play in the World Series is an honor and something they will remember for the rest of their life.”

Photo by William Lange

Maricopa’s American Legion Baseball season opened Saturday. Speakers included Mayor Christian Price, Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel, Sheriff Paul Babeu and City Manager Gregory Rose. But the center of attention was on the Ford family as the Legion paid tribute to the legacy of Nate Ford.

The sheriff gave out commissioner’s coins to four young men being honored as they go into the military.

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Clockwise from top left: Tyler Rapp, Christian Garcia, Kevin Borboa, Carter Paine and Marcos Cano. Photos by William Lange

Five members of the Maricopa High School baseball team were named all-section in a coaches’ poll this week.

Seniors Tyler Rapp, Christian Garcia and Kevin Borboa were all named First Team. Junior Marcos Cano and sophomore Carter Pain were Second Team selections.

As a pitcher, Rapp was 7-1 with two saves and an earned run average of just 2.06. In 51 innings, he struck out 44, walked 14 and gave up 15 earned runs. At bat, he had a .333 average. His 25 hits included two home runs and eight doubles. He also led the team in stolen bases with seven.

Garcia had a .381 batting average with a team-leading 32 hits and 26 runs batted in. He had a homer, three triples and five doubles. A catcher, he also had the highest fielding average on the team at .985.

Borboa played in 20 out of 29 games and had a team-leading batting average of .462. He had six doubles, two triples and a home run while driving in 19 runs. He had four stolen bases.

Cano batted .346 with three home runs, two triples and four doubles. He drove in 24. He drew the most walks on the team with 15. He also stole four bases. His fielding average was .921.

Paine was 5-4 as a pitcher with an ERA of 2.68. He struck out 43 in 52.1 innings while walking 22 and giving up 20 earned runs. He batted .322, with four doubles and a triple. He had four stolen bases.

The Rams finished the season in the second round of the state tournament with a 16-13 record. They were ranked 10th in the state in Division III.

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Freshman Nico Bandin and senior Tyler Rapp cover a play at second during the second round of the state tournament. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s baseball team gave up only one earned run in second-round play of the state tournament, but five errors let in six more.

The Rams lost to seventh-seed Sahuarita 7-1 Saturday afternoon in Surprise. Maricopa was ranked 10th in the Division III tourney.

The loss ended a fine season for MHS, which posted a 16-13 record. Outside of tournaments, the team was 13-5.

“We have a lot of things to look back on and be proud of,” head coach Andrew Pollak said.

The last time the team reached the state tournament was 2007. The last time the team reached the second round was 2004.

The team had a goal of getting the MHS program back to state despite a lackluster 2015 season. Pollak said many of the seniors came up through the program and had “100-percent buy-in” on that objective.

They also had the added inspiration of playing for their late teammate Nate Ford. Though the team was “bummed out” at Saturday’s loss, Pollak said they were proud to finish among the top 16 Division III teams in the state.

Against Sahuarita, the Rams tied the game 1-1 in the top of the second inning when senior Chad Nachtweh’s sacrifice fly knocked in sophomore Carter Paine.

“We definitely had our chances, but we weren’t able to capitalize on them,” the coach said.

After Paine pitched out of a bases-loaded jam, Sahuarita had only a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning. For Maricopa, the game turned into a mess in every way.

Untidy field play helped Sahuarita score three more runs before lightning on the horizon brought all playoff games in the complex to a halt.

Official rules require a 30-minute delay for a lightning sighting. With every subsequent lightning bolt, the 30-minute clock starts over. The continued lightning and subsequent rain had most baseball players sitting in their buses for nearly an hour.

The resumption of play did not help the Rams. Sahuarita scored another run before Paine got out of the fifth inning. Maricopa junior Jackson Stensgard finished the game on the mound, allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth.

Stensgard had three hits in the game, including a double. Paine hit a triple and a single, and senior Ivan Herrera had a single. Paine struck out three, Stensgard one.

MHS baseball is losing five senior starters but has a deep selection of underclassmen moving up, including freshman Nico Bandin. Several players can shift from the outfield or the infield to the mound.

“We just knew that our players could also pitch, and we were excited about that flexibility,” Pollak said.

He hopes this season will be a precursor of good things to come for the Rams.

“It was a blast,” Pollak said.

This year's senior Rams are (from left) Kevin Borboa, Tyler Rapp, Chad Nachtweh, Ivan Herrera and Christian Garcia. The late Nate Ford would have been a senior player and is listed on the roster as captain. Photo by William Lange

When 16-year-old Nate Ford died in an August traffic accident, he left behind grieving parents, siblings, relatives, friends and teammates. At Maricopa High School, the loss was immediately felt on the football team, for which he was a lineman and which was just starting its season at the time.

But the baseball diamond was really Ford’s athletic home. The Rams baseball team had a longer time to absorb the loss before its spring season began. Time did not lessen the personal loss to his friends on the team, but it did offer the opportunity to honor the senior catcher baseball-style.

Nate was made the team captain and is included on the Rams’ roster of seniors.

Friday will be Senior Night at Matt Huffman Field. The Rams Baseball Booster Club is making it the Nate Ford Community Night.

“Baseball was Nate’s passion,” Booster President Melanie Rapp said. “”He loved to be on the baseball field.”

Maricopa musician Laura Walsh will sing the National Anthem at 5:50 p.m., and the Rams will host Tempe High School at 6 p.m.

There will be ongoing raffles. Prizes include a 55-inch Toshiba flat screen TV, two-night stay at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, Mommy and Me photo session, a $100 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card, 50/50 and more.

Nate Ford would have been a senior catcher this year for Maricopa High School. He and the other five seniors will be honored Friday night. Submitted photo
Nate Ford would have been a senior catcher this year for Maricopa High School. He and the other five seniors will be honored Friday night. Submitted photo

The concession stand will be serving smoked ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, hamburgers and hotdogs.

After the game, MHS will honor all of its baseball seniors. They include Kevin Borboa, Christian Garcia, Ivan Herrera, Chad Nachtweh and Tyler Rapp.

The Rams are 12-11 going into this week. Outside of tournaments, they are 10-4 and are 11th in the Division III power rankings.

Among the seniors (alphabetically), Borboa has played 13 games and batted .512. He has 21 hits, 11 runs batted in, four doubles and a triple.

Garcia, in 22 games, is batting .377 and his fielding percentage of .987 leads the team. He is also the team leader in walks with 12 and triples with three, and he is co-leader in total hits with 23, doubles with five and RBI with 19.

Herrera is batting .299 and is co-leader in hits with 23 and co-leader in runs scored with 17. He has three triples.

Nachtweh has struggled at the plate this season with a .196 averages, but two of his 10 hits were doubles. He also drew nine walks and had five RBI. His fielding percentage at first base is an impressive .962.

Rapp is leading the Rams’ pitching with an earned run average of 2.80. His 5-1 record is also the team’s best, and he has two saves. In 30 innings pitched, he has walked seven and struck out 27. Offensively, he is batting .281, with 14 runs scored, four doubles a triple and 10 walks. He leads the team in stolen bases with six.

Maricopa Rams Baseball Schedule
Higley            W     10-7
Dobson            L    8-4
Williams Field        L    15-2
Poston Butte        W    15-11
Fairfax            W    3-2
Seton Catholic        W    9-7
Marcos de Niza        L    14-0
Youngker        W    14-8
Basha            L    11-6
Mesquite        L    14-0
Dobson            L    14-4
Perry            L    16-1
St. Mary’s        L    13-7
Walden Grove        W    3-1
North            W    6-3
Vista Grande        W    3-2
Estrella Foothills    W    5-3
Sahuarita        L    8-3
Mountain View        W    4-0
Poston Butte        W    10-3
Fountain Hills        L    5-2
Scottsdale Christian    W    8-3
Casa Grande        L    1-0
Sierra Linda        Away    3:45 p.m.
Tempe            Home    6 p.m.
McClintock        Home    4 p.m.
Combs            Away    3:45 p.m.