Mesa baseball team heads toward conference championship

Steve Trader

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As the professional baseball season begins, the Mesa baseball season is coming toward an end. With a stellar offense and pitching combo, the Olympians find themselves sitting in first place atop the conference with only 10 games remaining.

Due to a tough preseason schedule, Mesa got off to a mediocre start early in the year. Since conference play began in late February though, the Olympians have been nothing less than dominant, going 11-4 in league play and holding a 1 game lead over Palomar College in the conference standings. The team’s record stands at 18-14 overall.

“That tough preseason really prepared us very well for league games,” said head coach Kevin Hazlett.

As of March 31, third baseman Dylan Cohen leads the offense with a .352 batting average and 37 hits. Jordan Davis is not far behind Cohen with a .338 average and is tied for the team lead in homers (2) and triples (3). Catcher Griff Erickson is batting .305 and has really hit well the last month or so, according to Hazlett. Erickson was drafted by the Dodgers after last season but returned for his sophomore year. Depending on the type of season he has, the Dodgers could choose to pursue him and will have the first shot at signing him to a contract at years end. The team is collectively hitting an average of .268 overall.

Complimenting their potent offense is a pitching staff that is running like a well-oiled machine. Sophomore starter Bryan Paukovits was drafted by the Kansas City Royals last season but, like Erickson, returned to finish out his second year. So far he’s managed a 5-3 record with a 2.22 ERA and he leads the team with 52 stikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched. With the successful year that Paukovits is having, Hazlett has little doubt that he’ll get signed at the close of the season.

Freshman starting lefty Max Peterson combines with Paukovits to complete a powerful starting pitching duo. As of March 31, he stands at a 4-3 record with a 3.46 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched.

“Pitching has really gotten us to this point in the season and I think it’ll carry us deep into the playoffs,” says Hazlett.

Position-wise, Mesa starts seven freshmen and has a pitching staff that includes 6 out of 11 sophomores. It’s a team chemistry that has been successful so far.

“It’s taken some freshmen leadership in order to get us going and make this season work,” said Hazlett. “That’s combined well with our sophomore pitching.”

The team is healthy, strong, and peaking at the perfect time of the season, according to Hazlett. If they can stay healthy, they could be in good shape to have a favorable showing in the SoCal regional tournament on May 11-13. The super-regional tournament is May 18-20 and the State championships follow on May 26-28.

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