Photo by Les Stukenberg.
AIA Affiliation: Conference: 4A
Region: Grand Canyon
2016 Record: 13-7 Overall, 9-2 Section
2016 State Playoffs: Beat #21 Buena 8-2 in 1st Round; Lost 4-2 to #5 Greenway in Quarterfinals.
Coach: Brian Bundrick, 2nd year
2017 Players to Watch: Sr. P Noah Barros; Sr. DH/OF Sam Bartlett; Sr. C/P Gunner Bundrick; Sr. SS Blake Huntley.
Date Opponent Time
2/23 Apollo^ 4 p.m.
Copper Canyon^ 7 p.m.
2/24 Ironwood^ 7 p.m.
2/28 Coconino* 3:45 p.m.
3/2 at Coconino* 4 p.m.
3/3 Youngker 3:45 p.m.
3/7 at Flagstaff* 3:45 p.m.
3/9 Flagstaff* 3:45 p.m.
3/11 Higley! 4 p.m.
3/13 Ponca City (Okla.)! 10 a.m.
Bishop McGuin. (Okla.)! 1 p.m.
3/14 Stilwell (Okla.)! 4 p.m.
3/21 at Lee Williams* 3:45 p.m.
3/23 Lee Williams* 3:45 p.m.
3/28 Mingus Union* 3:45 p.m.
3/30 at Mingus Union* 3:45 p.m.
4/4 Mohave* 3:45 p.m.
4/6 at Mohave* 3:45 p.m.
4/11 at Prescott* 3:30 p.m.
4/13 Prescott* 3:45 p.m.
4/17 Moon Valley 3:45 p.m.
4/20 at Shadow Mountain 4 p.m.
4/21 at Cactus 3:45 p.m.
4/25 Combs 3:45 p.m.
^ = at Wayne DeCombs West Side Invite, Ironwood H.S. in Glendale
- = 4A Grand Canyon Region game
! = Best of the West Tournament, Greenway H.S., Sunrise Mountain H.S., Sunnyslope H.S. in Phoenix
Six seniors who played on the 2016 section champion and Division II state-qualifying Bradshaw Mountain baseball team have graduated, but second-year coach Brian Bundrick lacks no confidence heading into this season.
And why shouldn’t he?
Yes, Cohen Heckethorn, Steven Hernandez, Bobby Simonds, Robert Sousa, Luis Bautista and Tanner Spohn are gone.
However, the Bears, who finished 2016 with a 12-6 overall record and a 9-2 section mark, like their chances versus stalwart Mingus and rival Prescott in the reconstituted 4A Grand Canyon Region this spring. They have as much senior leadership and more strength because the players lift weights together year-round.
“We’re extremely versatile and we’re experienced, whereas last year we had some ‘ifs’ in the outfield and some ‘ifs’ in the batter’s box,” Bears senior shortstop Blake Huntley said from practice Feb. 15. “But this year I’m excited.”
Bradshaw opens the season at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, against Apollo in the Wayne DeCombs West Side Invitational at Ironwood in Glendale.
“The biggest thing we have going for us right now is that this team is probably more balanced [deeper] than any other team we have,” Bundrick said. “They’re not necessarily better athletes, but there’s competition every day at practice. I’ve never had this many talented kids out here.”
Not only should Bradshaw own a potent offense. It should possess enough pitching depth to keep opponents guessing. Several of the Bears have competed together since Little League.
“Our pitching is phenomenal; we have the infield to back it up,” Huntley added. “Our outfield’s still a little shaky, but we have all our confidence in the outfield. We’re all in this together, from now until the end.”
In the lineup, Huntley leads off, followed by senior designated hitter/outfielder Sam Bartlett (hit almost .400 last spring) in the 2-hole. Huntley finds ways to get on base, in part because he goes deep into counts and he can bunt.
First Team All-Section V catcher and team No. 2 starting pitcher Gunner Bundrick beefed up in the off-season and bats third. He’s 6-foot-2 and a muscular 222 pounds. Bundrick’s sturdy behind the dish and keeps baserunners honest. And did we mention he runs the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds?
“We have the potential to hit as good, maybe better [than last season],” Gunner said. “We could be a big power team. It’s gonna have to be ‘pick your poison.’ ”
Batting cleanup is senior right-handed ace pitcher Noah Barros, a converted third baseman who played fall ball. Barros said he relishes being the go-to guy. He wants to dominate the corners with his fastball.
“It’s a big responsibility. And last year at our banquet, my coach told me that I was going to be our ace,” Barros said. “I’ve worked over the off-season to get to the point that I can provide for my team.”
Like Bundrick, Barros is bigger and stronger this year. Barros’ fastball can reach 90 mph, and he mixes in a curve and a changeup.
“In four years of coaching him here [including as an assistant], he has probably improved more than anybody,” coach Bundrick said. “We look for big things from Noah.”
After spending the past year away from baseball (although he worked out with the 2016 team), senior first baseman/No. 3 starting pitcher Jake Morales bats fifth. Both Barros and Morales should protect Gunner Bundrick.
“He had a great summer and threw lots of strikes for us,” coach Bundrick said of Morales. “He’ll see lots of innings.”
Third baseman Jeff Walker (No. 6 hole), quick and powerful outfielder/first baseman Tim Young (No. 7), DH/OF/P Travis Robinson (No. 8) and left-handed IF/OF Shane Pryor (No. 9), all juniors, round out the order.
Freshman pitcher Paxton Prentice, who can pitch more than 80 mph, figures into the mix, too.
“We have seven or eight guys that will see the mound for a start this year,” coach Bundrick said.
Last April, Bradshaw defeated Buena, 8-2, in the first round of the D-II state tournament. The Bears were eliminated by eventual state champion Greenway, 4-2, in the ensuing round. And yet they learned a valuable lesson.
“We all, as a team, thought we were better than Greenway, but they beat us that day,” Gunner Bundrick said. “And to find out they went on to win it [title] kind of bit us. So we want to come and prove that [we’re still a contender at state].”
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2039.
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