This season’s Camp Verde High baseball team is much different than last year’s but the Cowboys are still confident.
Last year Camp Verde had 10 seniors and this year they have none.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” said head coach Will Davis. “Young, but we got a lot of talent.”
The Cowboys lost first team All-Central performers Carson Zale (who was on it twice), Darren Franklin, Easton Braden, Wyatt Howe and Ryan Cain. They also lost second teamer John Castillo but return utility player Dominiq Bruno, who was on the second team.
Zale was region offensive player of the year, Howe was region co-player of the year and Davis was co-coach of the year.
“We don’t really have any returners, but there’s a new excitement too,” Davis said. “A lot of young guys are excited, they’re working hard, they’re learning, so a lot different than last year where we were going through the motions, fine tuning, where this year we’re coaching and teaching a lot more.”
The Cowboys opened up the season with a 16-3 win at Mayer. Their home opener is Friday against Kingman Academy at 3 p.m.
“We’re actually doing pretty well for as young as we are,” said junior first baseman/pitcher Dawson McCune.
Davis said the strength of the team will be defense and pitching with McCune and junior utility player Dakota Battise leading the way on the mound.
“I think we’re going to play defense well,” Davis said. “I think we’re gonna defend it really good and I feel pretty comfortable with our first two pitchers, behind that it’s kinda unsure but we’re definitely going to play well defensively.”
McCune said it feels good being a leader, teaching the younger players.
The Cowboys roster as of Feb. 22 had six juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen.
“Last year I probably only started six games and this year I’m one of the captains, so it’s a big difference,” Battise said.
Bruno played in 24 games last year and batted .371. Battise played in 26, batting .356 and had a 0.00 ERA in five appearances.
The young Cowboys have to make the adjustment to varsity.
“We’ll see how we hit the ball,” Davis said. “We’re still learning. We’re not used to seeing faster pitchers and guys that can speeds and move the ball around real well. They’re used to JV, where it’s fastball, curveball, curveball’s never a strike, so you wait on a fastball.”
After they finished third in 2017, behind Camp Verde and Northland Prep, Paradise Honors has emerged as a contender in the 2A Central. PH merged with Arizona Charter Academy.
“Our region has gotten tougher because it sounds like Paradise Honors has brought a bunch of kids in from a school that closed and so their attendance has doubled and a lot of these guys are really good athletes, so they’re gonna be tough,” Davis said “Sedona’s older this year, they’re probably the team to beat out of the northern teams. So we’re probably at the bottom echelon of this year’s region but we hope to work hard and end up at the top at the end of the year.”
Last Saturday Camp Verde lost 17-10 to Joy Christian in a scrimmage but still impressed. Last year Joy was the top seed in the state tournament and they’ve won at least 20 games the last four years.
“It wasn’t that I was surprised by one person, but I was surprised as a whole that we played as well as we did,” Davis said. “17-10 doesn’t sound good, but putting up 10 runs against the Joy pitcher is pretty good. We got four off their first guy, who was their pitcher, so those four runs right there are huge.”
McCune said he thinks the season will go pretty well, that they’ve practiced hard of the summer and the fall.
“Yeah we’ve been surprising, like last Saturday for the scrimmage I thought we did a lot better than I thought we were going to,” Battise said.