Just before prep sports were suspended indefinitely, Mountain Ridge baseball was one of the last high school teams competing in Arizona. The Mountain Lions played at the Boras Baseball Classic at Corona del Sol High School on March 14. Many schools had already stopped competition due to COVID-19, while other games and events were simply postponed due to several days of rain.
Two days before the AIA suspended the regular season at a March 16 meeting, the Mountain Lions were locked in a heated weekend battle on the final day of the tournament.
They went into the final inning down 2-1 to Copper Hills High of Utah.
Then, senior Brock Arnold knocked in two runs with a hit into left field to take a 3-2 lead.
He smiled, standing on the base as he watched his teammates celebrate in the dugout. The moment was another happy memory these Mountain Lions have created in their baseball careers.
“We’re having so much fun together, I mean, so many of us have been playing together for years,” Arnold said.
Of the 19 players on the roster, 12 are seniors that have seen the program reach the state playoff final in 2018 and take a sub-.500 team to the semifinal last season. Several of them have played baseball – even T-ball for a few – with and against each other since they were in grade school. They have grown into a talented team with several garnering college baseball offers.
“We’ve been waiting for this class. Even last year, we knew these guys would all come up together and use that experience of playing together,” said coach Artie Cox.
“So yeah, they’ve been so special.”
The whole Mountain Lion squad cheered as senior pitcher Brock Peery closed a victory. Peery signed to play ball at Arizona State University.
At least for a few hours on a warm, sunny day in Tempe, the focus was not on the virus, nor its impacts on school closures and the baseball season.
In a postgame huddle, Cox provided instruction to players on how to improve on fielding, hitting and baserunning errors that almost cost Mountain Ridge the game. The team talked about how it could compete for a state championship if the tournament is still on. Mostly, things seemed normal for just a moment.
“If we can clean those things up, we should be able to make another nice run, we’re hoping,” Cox said.