The 2017 All West Valley Preps baseball team

Sunrise Mountain’s Kody Decker (#24) scores on a sacrifice fly by Trevor Pruitt (#11) in a 4A quarterfinal game against Marcos De Niza May 5 at Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

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:

First 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

Joy Christian’s Rylan Collins (#2) fields a line drive for an out against Buckeye in the Division IV semifinal May 13, 2016 at Goodyear Ballpark fields in Goodyear.(Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

Second team

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.).

Kellis’ Adrian Salazar (#7) hits for an RBI single against Liberty in a 5A semifinal game May 11, at Tempe Diablo Stadium. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

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.

Kellis Head Coach Michael Deardoff (Jerry Burch for West Valley Preps)

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.

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