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After finishing the 2016 season with a 17-7 record and a second-round playoff appearance, the best it has had in quite some time according to head coach Craig Eagle, Sedona Red Rock High School’s baseball team is shaping up for another successful season in 2017.

Despite having graduated five players from last season, Eagle is confident in his team, mostly in its pitching and defense.

Scorpion sophomore infielder Connor Knuth fields a ball at first base under light rain during the Sedona Red Rock High School baseball team’s practice on Monday, Feb. 13. The team makes its home debut at 3:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, against Payson High School.
“Our strengths will be pitching from Dawson [Barber] and Randy [Rodriguez],” Eagle said. “Our infield will be solid as well.”

Offensively, junior catcher Wyatt Ross returns with the team’s top batting average, as well as strong bats in Rodriguez and junior infielder Michael Ortega.

In terms of the team’s hitting philosophy, the Scorpions like to put pressure on their opponent’s defense, forcing them to make tough throws that can lead to errors. Small ball is definitely not the name of their game.

“We always try to take the extra base,” Eagle said. “Get doubles out of the box.”

On the base paths, they like to “fool the defense,” with their base-stealing strategies.

“We’re aggressive when we get runners on base,” Eagle said. “We look to take risks, we want the other team to make that play. A lot of times they can’t.”

On the other hand, the Scorpions keep things simple on defense. Eagle looks for his pitchers to get early counts and for the defense to be fundamentally sound.

“We don’t want to do extraordinary things,” Eagle said. “It’s less pressure on the players to think that way, not needing to make extraordinary double-play turns. Our pitching is solid enough to get guys out.”

The majority of the Red Rock team is comprised of underclassmen: Seven freshman and four sophomores. Barber and Rodriguez, the team’s 2016 MVP, are the lone seniors on the team.

While youth may be the team’s biggest weakness, Eagle is excited to coach such a young team, which should bode well for the team’s success in the coming years.

The Scorpions have scheduled stronger opponents for 2017 as well, playing Division 3A teams Chino Valley High School, Payson High School and Winslow High School within their first nine games of the season.

“Especially early in the season, we’ll get good experience with solid teams that have good pitching,” Eagle said.

Red Rock opens the season at noon on Friday, Feb. 24 against Valley Christian High School at the Cougar Classic at Arizona Lutheran Academy. It will make its home debut at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 3, against Payson High School.

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