Patriots raring to go: MALC set to face Hayden in first round of AIA 1A state playoffs
BULLHEAD CITY — Practice had just ended early Wednesday evening and it was less than 48 hours before the Mohave Accelerated Learning Center Patriots were going to get a taste of postseason baseball.
Junior all-purpose player Frank Vestal ran into the dugout as practice ended and was excited about he and many of his Patriot teammates’ first chance to play baseball after the regular season ended.
The No. 9-seeded Patriots will play at 4 p.m. on Friday at the Goodyear Baseball Complex against the No. 8-seeded Hayden High School Lobos in the first round of the 2019 Arizona Interscholastic Association Baseball 1A State Championship.
The 1A West Region Patriots finished their season with a record of 6-8 overall, 6-3 in conference and 5-3 in region, according to the ranking system of aiaonline.org. The 1A East Region Lobos finished with a record of 10-6-1 overall, 10-5-1 overall and 4-1-1 in region.
As equally excited about postseason baseball as his Patriots, is MALC head coach Ray Dimick.
“Chase is pretty excited,” said Dimick about MALC sophomore Chase Vaughan. “We had a good practice today; we’ve had a few good practices this week, so we feel pretty good.”
Said Dimick about the tight seedings: “We’re eight and nine, so we’re pretty equal teams.”
Dimick said the Lobos have no statistics posted anywhere.
“So, we have no idea; so we really don’t know,” he added.
A good portion of the Patriots’ losses have come against 1A conference powerhouses: MALC fell to No. 1-ranked Bagdad High School Sultans twice and to No. 7-ranked Anthem Prep Eagles once during the regular season.
“We’ve been through the fire this year,” Dimick said. “Every team we’ve lost to have been in the top five in 1A or 2A.”
The Patriots also lost to the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association 2A Southern League Needles High School Mustangs twice and the AIA 2A West Region Parker High School Broncs once.
The MALC head coach agreed that losing against juggernauts during the regular season could help prepare his Patriots for the postseason.
“We’re not afraid of anybody,” Dimick said. “We’re going to go out there (and compete).”
Despite all of the excitement, the Patriots were loose in their dugout after Wednesday’s practice.
“We’re going one game at a time,” Dimick said.
He added that junior right-handed pitcher Zack Neal will be MALC’s starting pitcher against the Lobos.
Neal’s record is 3-2 with a 2.48 ERA, and he has struck out 66 batters and walked 20 in 34 innings this season.
“Of course, we’ve got Price,” said Dimick about junior right-handed pitcher Trevor Price, who also is MALC’s first-string catcher. “If Zach goes deep enough, we can use him, Price, for one inning.”
If the Patriots advance into the second round, Price will be the starting pitcher. Dimick said.
The second-round game begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the same venue.
“But getting that first win is the most important thing,” the MALC head coach added.
Dimick said sophomore Aaron Sessions, who is 3-2 this season, has pitched well for the Patriots.
BATTER UP: Neal completed the regular season with a .566 batting average with one home run, two triples, seven doubles, 28 runs scored and 20 RBI; and Price batted .435 with one home run, three doubles, 23 RBI and 12 runs scored to lead the MALC offense.