BULLHEAD CITY — Gusty and dusty conditions didn’t stop the Mohave Accelerated Learning Center varsity baseball team from practicing Tuesday at windswept Rotary Park.
It’s never too soon to get into the swing of spring training, particularly when your regular season begins next week.
Patriots coach Ray Dimick, in his 10th year at the helm, anticipates a stellar campaign. That’s because MALC is missing only one senior from last year’s squad, which tied for second in the region and earned a playoff berth.
“I expect to go deep into the playoffs,” said Dimick, who moved to Bullhead City in 1999. “We look strong with our core of juniors and seniors.”
He is also counting on a solid pitching staff with Zach Neal leading the way.
“We have strong pitchers this season,” said Dimick. ”You’ve got to have guys who throw strikes.”
That would include Neal, who also played basketball for MALC and plans to attend Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. When he isn’t on the Patriots’ mound, he can be found at shortstop.
His brother, sophomore Josh, also has made the transition from hardwood to the baseball diamond.
When it comes to the team’s backstop, the price is right: Trevor Price serves as the primary catcher, though he’s also a pitcher.
Other players who are penciled in at specific positions include third baseman Aaron Sessions and center-fielder Frank Vestal, whom Dimick refers to as a cornerstone.
“We should be good this year,” Vestal said prior to the team’s warm-up session Tuesday. He is among upward of 15 participants expected to earn a slot on MALC’s final roster.
But it takes more than players to win, and Dimick will have considerable help in the form of assistant coach Aaron LaCasse.
“He has the best baseball mind around and specialized in game plans,” said Dimick about LaCasse, who used to coach at River Valley High, where he led the Dust Devils to a Division 3 championship in 2012.
If the Patriots are going to achieve similar success, they’ll have to survive a slew of contenders — most notably Bagdad.
“They’re among the best in Arizona,” Dimick said of the Sultans. He added that Parker, River Valley and Laughlin also could prove challenging as MALC works its way through the schedule.
At this early stage, the Patriots’ biggest roadblock could be next Wednesday’s journey to Williams, where the temperature won’t rise above the mid-40s (according to The Weather Channel). Dimick said he may contact Williams High officials about the possibility of moving their season opener to Bullhead City.