With an experienced, senior-laden squad for the 2017 season, success is the only option for the Camp Verde High School baseball team.
The Cowboys have 10 seniors, seven of whom have played on the varsity team since they were freshmen, and two sophomores on the team.
“Do we have a weakness? No,” sixth-year head coach Will Davis said. “This is one of those years where you’re scared to be the coach. There’s so much talent and so much expectation.”
According to Davis, the 2016 Cowboys had a fielding percentage of almost .900, and this season expects to reach that level. Defense will be the backbone of the team, and its biggest key to success, as pitching is the one question mark for 2017.
With the departure of ace Logan Conrad, Camp Verde does not have a sure-fire No. 1 on the mound. With the new pitch count rules for this season, three Cowboys players will split time: Seniors Carson Zale, Darren Franklin and Easton Braden.
If a pitcher throws 105 pitches they must have 5 days rest, if they throw 75, it is four days.
Braden is Camp Verde’s regular catcher, who will be the key factor in the team’s overall defense, which looks to give up just four to five runs per game.
“The catcher is the biggest key,” Davis said. “If he has a year like last year, he can control the pitches and the other teams’ ability to run.”
One key addition to the Cowboys offense this season is a familiar face in Zale, who returns from spending a year living in Montana.
Davis expects his team to be a mostly power hitting team.
“Honestly the feeling is we’re not going to play a lot of small ball,” Davis said. “I think we’ll have a lot of short innings and big innings.”
On the base paths, the Cowboys will be aggressive. Davis aims to make the opponents’ defense make plays because oftentimes they will not, as is common in high school baseball.
Last season the team went 14-4 overall and 6-2 in what was last year’s section, Section I of Division IV. After the Arizona Interscholastic Association realigned and renamed its divisions for the 2016-17 sports seasons, the Cowboys now play in a different Division 2A Central Region.
Five teams left and three others have been added in; Verde Valley rival Sedona Red Rock High School and Northland Preparatory Academy are the two that remain.
Despite the drastic changes to the team’s regional opponents, the goal remains the same.
“Without question we’re expected to win and if not it’s on me,” Davis said. “We’re expecting to win one game at a time as a team. Talent wise there’s a lot of big expectations.”
Camp Verde opens its season on its home turf, Doug Davis Field, at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 against Division 1A Mayer High School. On Friday, Feb. 24, they will begin play at the Bagdad Copper Classic tournament.
Cowboy Baseball Schedule
3:45 p.m. v. Mayer High School
Feb. 24, 25
@ Bagdad Copper Classic
6 p.m. @ Payson High School
3:45 p.m. v. Wickenburg High School
3:45 p.m. v. Chino Valley High School
March 9, 10, 11
@ Route 66 Baseball Classic
4 p.m. @ Bourgade Catholic High School