Spring Preview: Bears pin hopes on chemistry, hard work paying off
Bradshaw Mountain’s baseball team won’t have any senior superstars to lean on in 2018 like it did with the likes of catcher Gunner Bundrick and pitcher Noah Barros last spring. However, the Bears on the current 12-player roster get along and work hard, and that might be enough to suit coach Brian Bundrick.
In 2017, the coach possessed plenty of talent, but he had some juniors and seniors in key positions who didn’t mesh well. The result? The Bears didn’t qualify for state, posting a disappointing 14-12 overall record and a 5-7 mark in the 4A Grand Canyon region.
“It was a battle that frustrated coaches, frustrated players, and we never really got over the hump,” coach Bundrick said from preseason practices last week regarding the 2017 campaign. “We continued to battle it throughout the entire season, and it was a team that just struggled to get after it.”
So, can the Bears find a way to turn the corner this spring? The picture should become clearer when Bradshaw Mountain opens the 2018 season against Apollo at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, at the Wayne DesCombs West Side Invite in Glendale.
“We’re not going to be a team that’s going to go out and crush people,” the coach said, adding that he likes the competitiveness and talent of his sophomore class. “We’re going to have to go out there and compete on the mound and get three outs an inning, and figure out how to scrap together between six and 10 runs to win games.”
In Bradshaw Mountain’s infield, senior Jeff Walker and sophomore Dylan Taylor are penciled in at catcher. Senior Timmy Young patrols first base, junior Chase Torp likely gets the nod at second, senior Shane Pryor’s at shortstop and Bailey Ramirez roams third.
Bundrick says Pryor’s “the heart and soul of our infield, no doubt” due to his toughness. Meanwhile, Young has recovered from a hand/wrist injury that sidelined him for nearly the entire varsity boys’ basketball season. Bundrick calls Young “a workhorse,” in part because he excels as a three-sport athlete (football).
“Everyone out here right now has plenty of chemistry with each other and knows their roles,” Young said. “We get along very well; we joke together. We need to be serious when we come out here and play. A lot of kids were out here last year, and we don’t want another season like that. So, we’re coming out here, we’re putting in work here to not have another season like that. We should have a winning season, possibly go to the playoffs.”
In the outfield, sophomore standout Paxton Prentice moves to centerfield after spending last season as the Bears’ first baseman. Logan Brennan’s in right and senior Travis Robinson’s in left.
“Paxton’s got very good speed and a great arm, and we can utilize him better in the outfield than at first base,” Bundrick said. “Travis Robinson is a completely new player from last year. He’s getting pressure from a sophomore, Jacob Roberts, who’s hitting the ball well, he’s pitching well and he’s playing outfield. Travis is better for the competition.”
On the mound, right-handed pitcher Robinson and the southpaw Prentice stand atop the starting rotation. Pryor follows. Prentice’s fastball reaches upwards of 85 mph.
“Paxton, if he’s throwing strikes, he’s as good as anybody in the state,” Bundrick said. “He’s bigger, faster, stronger [than last season]. He works his butt off.”
Added Prentice, who also throws a curve, change and knuckleball, “I have pretty good command of the curveball and just kind of hit my spots.”
Robinson labored on his mechanics in the offseason, and now he’s throwing the ball harder and keeping it down in the zone, Bundrick said.
“It doesn’t matter how hard you throw; you’ve got to be able to compete,” the coach added. “This team seems to be better at it.”
As for the batting order, Pryor leads off and should be followed by Torp, Prentice, Robinson, Walker, Young, Roberts (designated hitter), Ramirez and Brennan in the Nos. 2 through 9 holes, respectively. Bundrick’s guys aren’t likely to hit for power.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to win the ‘little’ ballgame,” said the coach, referring to implementing small-ball tactics to win games. “Everyone on this team’s going to have to bunt. It’s just that simple.”
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.