Same old story: Corona bounced early in baseball playoffs

By Brian Gomez

Maybe next season will be different for the Corona del Sol High School varsity baseball team. Then again, maybe not.

The Aztecs had enough talent this spring to be a top-10 team, yet stumbled to a 17-16 finish and were eliminated in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament by Tucson Sahuaro.

Like previous years, the potential was evident in Corona’s seven wins against state playoff teams, although it never materialized. It’s becoming a broken record for a program that prides itself on success, not mediocrity.

“I don’t like to use the excuse that we’re young and immature,” said Corona coach Ron Davini, whose teams have gone 33-34 the last two seasons for the lowest winning percentage over a two-year period since the 1995 and ‘96 campaigns. “When you’ve got that many games under your belt, you’ve got to mature.”

The Aztecs return nine rising seniors and two rising juniors next season. They lose nine seniors, including starters Eric Smith, Adam Taylor and Phil Anderegg and pitchers Chris Reap and Chris Rodriguez.

Jeff Sinay figures to slide into the starting lineup at second base, where Smith played this season. Matt Ortiz, one of only two underclassmen on the 20-man team, will stay at shortstop, and Matt Webb will take over at third base in place of Anderegg.

The outfield should be solidified with Taylor Smith in right, David Lovett in center and Tyler Ladue in left. Chris Centanni again will back up Cameron Quade behind the plate.

Corona’s biggest concern comes at first base, since Rodriguez and Scott Tarkett both are gone. Jon Gleave boasts a 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame, and is big enough to play first, even though his customary position is third.

Having gone 6-3 with a 1.65 ERA this season, left-hander Gabe Sandersius will become the team’s ace, assuming that he can stay out of Davini’s doghouse. T.J. Stapp will move into the starting rotation, and the third spot will be up for grabs between Lovett, Gleave and Ortiz.

Consistency on the mound is the key. Reap was 7-4 with a 2.50 ERA, but Rodriguez finished 0-4 with a 6.00 ERA.

“He just had some bad luck, and it kept snowballing,” Davini said of Rodriguez.

The Aztecs never were more than two games above .500, mainly because of their inability to stay hot. They strung together a three-game winning streak early last month, but dropped five of their last eight to close the season.

Back-to-back wins over Yuma High in the Central Region Tournament put Corona in the postseason for the fourth straight year, before Reap became the tough-luck loser against Sahuaro.

“We could have gone farther if we would have put the basics back together, but it wasn’t in the cards for us,” Davini said. “We just have to keep working and striving to get better.”

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@wranglernews.com.