Spring sports start

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: A Morenci batter lets the pitch go by as the Safford catcher tries to find the handle.

Safford opens baseball with Willcox, tennis with Miami on Feb. 22, softball with Coolidge on Feb. 23; Morenci baseball, softball openers are Feb. 24

By Raymundo Frasquillo:

Gila Valley – Yes, some teams are still battling for a roundball championship, but others have now turned their attention to other matters.

Spring sports begin competition this week, as both Safford’s baseball and softball programs were hosted by Morenci for scrimmages amidst light rain showers Feb. 16.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Senior left-handed pitcher Derek Waltrip, one of three pitchers Morenci used in the scrimmage, delivers a strike.

Safford opens its baseball season at home with back-to-back games against Willcox on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. and Coolidge for a 3A Central contest Friday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m.

The 2017 Bulldogs were the 3A state runners-up via a 6-2 loss to No. 8 Phoenix Northwest Christian as the No. 6 team, following a 6-5 first round win over No. 11 Show Low, a 4-3 quarterfinal win over No. 3 Florence, and a 13-0 five innings semifinal win over No. 2 Payson.

Safford’s softball team also opens at home against Coolidge on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. The 2017 quarterfinalist lost 4-1 to No. 12 Tucson Empire, the eventual 3A state champion, as the No. 4 team.

Morenci baseball and softball programs open in Tombstone, the ‘Town too tough to die,’ on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m.

Second-year softball coach Joseph Garcia (25-7-1 overall, 1-1 state) liked what he saw during the scrimmage. The Wildcats return five senior letter winners from a state quarterfinalist that bowed out 2-1 in 11 innings to No. 6 San Manuel as the No. 3 team, after a 4-1 first round win over No. 14 Scottsdale Christian.

Fourth-year baseball coach Joseph Morse (36-44-1, 0-1) also liked a lot of what he saw; however, there were some things he told the Wildcats he never wanted to see again. All of the Wildcats were able to show what they could do both with a bat and a glove. Morenci’s 2017 baseball team did not qualify for the state meet.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Freshman Cassidy Krass was one of four pitchers called on to show their skills for the scrimmage.

The Wildcats and Bulldogs also offer golf, tennis, and track and field programs. Morenci’s golf opener is in Benson on Feb. 27, the tennis opener at home with Willcox on March 1 and the track opener is March 3 in Buckeye.

Morenci girls track tied for 35th of 38 teams scoring and the boys were not among 33 teams scoring in Division IV, the boy’s tennis team was ousted 5-0 in the Division III first round by No. 6 Miami as No. 11, and both the golf and girl’s tennis teams did not qualify.

Safford’s tennis teams host Miami on Feb. 22, the golf team opens in Benson on March 1, and the track and field teams are slated to open in Douglas March 3.

The Bulldogs’ golf team had only one entrant in the 2017 meet, the boys tennis team dropped out with a 5-1 loss to No. 2 Tanque Verde in the quarterfinals as No. 7, and the girls 5-0 to No. 2 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian as No. 7, and the boys track team placed 21st of 35 teams scoring in Division III, and the girls track 25th of 37 scoring,

During eight sports thus far, Morenci student-athletes qualified for five of eight team state meets, finishing as state quarterfinalists in 2A football with a 45-7 loss to top-ranked Eagar Round Valley as No. 4, and sixth of 22 teams in Division IV during the boys state cross country meet in the Fall; and as Division IV state runners-up in wrestling, sixth of 10 teams in Division II Coed Cheer, and as part of the round of 16 in 2A boys basketball as No. 12 during the winter.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Junior Collin Batchelder holds Safford freshman Noah Bevins at first base during a delivery.

Safford qualified ten of 11 teams for state meets, six of six girls, and four of five boys.

In girls sports, the volleyball team exited the 3A state meet with a 3-1 first-round loss to No. 12 Tucson Tanque Verde as No. 5, the cross country team finished 16th of 20 Division III teams, the soccer team left with a 1-0 first round 3A meet loss to No. 5 Glendale Trivium Prep as No. 12, and the cheerleaders placed third of 10 in Division III Cheer and fifth of nine in Division III Stunt.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: The five returning senior letter winners listen to the post-game comments by Coach Joseph Garcia.

For boys, the cross country team ended 12th of 27 teams, the wrestling team was 4th of 43 Division III teams, the soccer team bowed out with a 4-0 quarterfinal loss to No. 12 Tucson Sabino as No. 4, the basketball team lost 54-42 to No. 4 Chandler Valley Christian in the 3A state second round as No. 13, and the football team did not qualify for the 3A state meet.

The Bulldogs are in the 3A girls basketball quarterfinals as No. 6 versus No. 3 Page on Feb. 19 in the Prescott Valley Event Center at 2:45 p.m.