West Valley Preps
For the fifth year, West Valley Preps has announced honors for the best baseball players it covers in the Northwest Valley.
Here is the complete fifth all-West Valley Preps baseball team:
C – Joey Martinez (Senior) Joy Christian
1B – Kody Decker (Senior) Sunrise Mountain
2B – Jonathan Ornelas (Junior) Kellis
SS – Grant Lung (Senior) Liberty
3B – Tyler Worrell (Senior) Northwest Christian
OF – Nathan Gawelko (Senior) Mountain Ridge
OF – Derek Legeza (Senior) Liberty
OF – Kevin Whalen (Junior) Centennial
UT – Nick Hamilton (Senior) Liberty
P – Matthew Liberatore (Junior) Mountain Ridge
P – Anthony Quattrocchi (Senior) Joy Christian
P – Adrian Salazar (Senior) Kellis
C – Ethan Snodgrass (Sophomore) Sunrise Mountain
1B – Justin Flebbe (Sophomore) Kellis
2B – Damian Nunez (Junior) Valley Vista
SS – Daniel Holbert (Junior) Shadow Ridge
3B – Dakota Nordine (Senior) Deer Valley
OF – E.J. Sua (Junior) Sunrise Mountain
OF – Lester Acoba (Senior) Willow Canyon
OF – Tanner Bland (Senior) Centennial
UT – Rylan Collins (Senior) Joy Christian
P – Tyler Smith (Senior) Valley Vista
P – Jarin Davis (Junior) Northwest Christian
P – Chandler Murphy (Sophomore) Liberty
Underclassmen to watch: Centennial – Mitch Downing C/SS (Soph.),; Centennial – Michael Keevins P (Fr.); Deer Valley – Jacob Paige OF (Soph.); Ironwood – Jake Burns C (Soph.); Joy Christian – Zach Martinez P/IF (Soph.); Kellis – Sam Curran OF (Soph.); Mountain Ridge – John Harayda 2B (Soph.), Travis Warriner SS (Fr.); Northwest Christian – Ryan Lopez OF (Soph.),; Paradise Honors – Darren Welker C/SS (Fr.); Peoria – Cameron Torres (Soph.); Sunrise Mountain – Caleb Thomason 3B (Soph.); Valley Vista – Logan Olson OF (Fr.); Willow Canyon – Dallan Curthoys IF (Soph.).
Player of the Year: Adrian Salazar, Kellis – This was a close race after the regular season. It was over, probably, by May 4 when Salazar pitched a complete game 7-2 win against top seed Liberty and had posted wins in three of the four postseason wins for the Cougars. That victory allowed the No. 13 seed Kellis to wait a week and throw Salazar in their next game — another win over Liberty. Then that gave him four days rest before hurling the 5A state title victory over Campo Verde. Salazar is a .477 hitter and as a shortstop, he gives Kellis its best defensive lineup. But he won this award by pitching the Cougars to a state title, winning five of six games. Rarely has one high school baseball player changed a team’s fortunes so dramatically.
Runner-up: Nick Hamilton, Liberty – After a lost 2016 season, Hamilton made the most of his senior year. Batting .447 with 29 RBI and an OPS of 1.218, he paced a potent Liberty offense. He also was an integral part of the Lions revival season beyond the batters box, a symbol of a different program that was the best into 5A until running into Salazar.
Coach of the Year: Michael Deardoff, Kellis – Nearly a decade of steady program building came to light in three glorious weeks for Kellis. Deardoff was responsible for the young Glendale school’s most steady sports program and reaped the benefits for his patient work and even-keeled demeanor when the 2017 team went on one of those magical postseason runs. He also did a masterful job managing Salazar’s postseason pitch count while getting him to start in five of six games. This was the first playoffs with a strict pitch count limit in place.
Runner-up: Chris Raymond, Liberty – J.C. McKee won a state title at Northwest Chrisian. Klent Corley went 29-2 at Joy Christian. Lance Billingsley, Eric Gardner and Vine Castaldo led their teams with aplomb. Ernesto Ortiz coached Valley Vista through an inspired postseason. All would have been good choices, but Raymond is my pick for his turnaround season in his first head coaching chance. Not only did Liberty improve greatly, the Lions bonded into one of the more tight-knit teams I have witnessed. Players were genuinely fond of their new coach and he spoke of them in fatherly tones.