SAN TAN VALLEY — The baseball teams with very talented rosters had it toughest when the spring sports season was canceled one year ago. Poston Butte was one of those teams, but with zero seniors on the 2020 roster, the Broncos are primed for a championship run.
All the key players have returned, and that includes an outstanding group of seniors led by Jose Lopez, Octavio Flores, Colten Vercoe and Sebastian Serrano.
When the outbreak of COVID-19 canceled the season last year, Poston Butte was off to a 9-0 start. So there is an element of unfinished business as well.
“We have a group that’s been together for a little while now,” Broncos coach Chris Holcombe said. “We played a really tough schedule in the offseason against some big clubs and had a lot of success ... so we’re ready to get after it. We’re excited for the opportunity to play, really.”
On Tuesday, Poston Butte hammered rival Combs 18-0. The Broncos are focused on playing their best baseball, regardless of the opponent.
The Broncos ran their record to 4-0 after their run-rule win over the Coyotes. The offense had nine hits, drew 12 walks and reached on a hit batter. Vercoe went 2 for 4 with a triple and two RBIs, junior Ethan Hatch drove in three runs, and Serrano walked three times and scored three runs.
Lopez, who plays a slick shortstop and has displayed uncommon skill since his freshman year, is batting .500 (5 for 10) with five RBIs and a 1.167 OPS through four games.
Genaro Garcia, a junior, and Vercoe have come out of the gates hot as well, with Garcia posting a 1.618 OPS with seven RBIs, and Vercoe hitting .538 with a double and three triples.
Unlike some teams, Poston Butte remained busy during the winter, playing 12 games against quality opponents in January and early February. Because of that preparation, Holcombe said his team should already be in midseason form.
And with a talented, experienced senior group and some dynamic juniors providing depth, the time is now for the Broncos to bring home a state championship trophy.
“We’re trying to play the best teams that we can to prepare for [a state title], and hopefully we get that opportunity at the end of the year to prove ourselves,” Holcombe said.
The seniors don’t lack confidence, and Holcombe said they take the field each game expecting to have success.
Starting pitching should be a significant advantage for Poston Butte. Vercoe is slotted as the No. 1 pitcher, and Flores is the No. 2. A couple of juniors, Hatch and Tyler Child, provide two more solid arms at the back end of the rotation.
Vercoe, committed to Mesa Community College, has a fastball that consistently sits in the upper 80s and occasionally hits 90 mph. He punched out eight batters in six innings, allowing just one earned run in the season opener against Scottsdale Saguaro on March 12.
Flores threw five shutout innings with seven strikeouts and one walk against Combs on Tuesday.
Although the capability to batter opponents with their offense is there, Holcombe said the Broncos will win plenty of games with pitching and defense. Roy Carrasco, a junior catcher, is a standout defensive player and adds to a defense that’s strong up the middle with Lopez at shortstop and junior Hunter Nunes in center field.
“We have two really good arms — elite arms for 4A — two guys that are north of 85 miles an hour and throw a lot of strikes and have the experience to not wither in tight spots,” Holcombe said of Vercoe and Flores. “And then we can really pick it (on defense) ... We don’t give in to anybody. We make everybody earn what they get, and we try to make five runs win.”