Spring sports make their return after a year hiatus - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Spring sports make their return after a year hiatus

March 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Spring sports make their return after a year hiatus

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

It’s an announcement that still holds some shock value even a year after it was made by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

COVID-19, at the time a virus still relatively unknown to Arizonans after just a few cases had been discovered, officially became a global pandemic in March 2020. What followed was mass shutdowns of business, then schools and on March 30, the spring sports season.

The AIA initially suspended the season on March 16 after Gov. Doug Ducey announced the closure of schools for two weeks. But as the closure extended, so did the suspension of spring sports until it was ultimately canceled.

“The kids were disappointed but truthfully, I think they handled it pretty well,” Hamilton head baseball coach Mike Woods said. “Even in my classroom and out here, they’ve handled it well. We’ve all just come to realize that you can’t count on anything.

“There’s going to be some cancellations and hiccups and we just have to plow through it.”

Despite the shortened season, MaxPreps, the hub for high school sports across the country, named Hamilton its national champion for the 2020 season.

The Huskies were among the final games to be played before the season was suspended then canceled. They defeated Utah’s Copper Hills 5-2 as part of the Boras Classic on Saturday, March 14 to finish 8-0 and the top-ranked team in the nation.

Woods figured at the time the season was set to be suspended after schools were closed. He even admitted there were thoughts the season would be canceled altogether, which ultimately became true.

But he says he didn’t expect the pandemic to still be raging on a full year later.

“I thought it was possible we might lose our season, but we held out for a good month,” Woods said. “As far as it affecting this season, I never saw that happening. We’re just happy to be out here again and we will do whatever we have to do to get the season in.”

Hamilton returns most of its starters from last season, including senior outfielder and left-handed pitcher Brock Selvidge, an LSU-commit.

Like his teammates, Selvidge realizes the talent Hamilton has and the likelihood it makes yet another run at the state title in May. But what’s more important at this point is getting there.

He’s thankful to have the opportunity to play after last year’s unfortunate early end. Hamilton is scheduled to open the season March 16 against Chaparral. Now it’s about doing what it takes to reach the finish line and not be cut short for the second year in a row.

“We focus on the present and let the future come,” Selvidge said. “We believe everything will fall into place if we just do our jobs. For me, I’m most concerned with what we are doing today, tomorrow and the next day.

“We just want to get one day better at a time and do what we can to keep playing.”

The same energy is broadcasted throughout the East Valley. Highland, with head coach Eric Kehoe entering his second year and, hopefully, first full season as head coach of the Hawks, saw a renewed sense of energy from its players. The Hawks scrimmaged earlier in the week in preparation for its season-opener on March 16.

In nearby Mesa, Skyline head coach Pat Herrera still has the 2020 season schedule and its few results hung in his office next to the dugout. Every year since Herrera took over the program in 2014-15, he has framed and hung a giant schedule with the results of his team’s games on the concrete walls of his office.

Admittedly, he wasn’t sure yet what to do with the 2020 schedule.

“It might bring some bad luck,” Herrera said.

In Ahwatukee, both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista are preparing for spring sports to commence once again.

Pride head baseball coach JJ Sferra recalls the day he told his team the season was canceled last year. Mountain Pointe was due for a strong season with the likes of Carson Tucker, who was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, and Ethan Long, now at Arizona State, in the lineup.

“It was tough,” Mountain Pointe baseball coach JJ Sferra said. “Obviously we were super talented last year but they’re still kids. You get close to them. I felt bad for the seniors, I felt bad for the juniors and sophomores. They just wanted to play, and I felt bad for them.

“I couldn’t imagine being in their position and have the season taken away.”

Desert Vista head baseball coach Cody Brassfield echoed Sferra, adding that while players were able to find an outlet in club baseball, there’s a new level of excitement for the high school season to return.

“Kids are kids and they’re just excited for the season,” Brassfield said. “I know they feel like they lost out on some games, but I’ve got a young team and they’re trying to make the best of it right now. They’re just happy to be playing.

“They enjoy their club teams but when you hear them talk, you can tell they’re excited for this season, the high school season.”