Patriot League baseball scramble among five things to watch this spring preps season
March 15, 2017
Things are starting to heat up.
Literally. Figuratively. Most importantly, in the context of a new season of prep sports.
The spring provides arguably the most variety when it comes to high school athletics: baseball, girls golf, lacrosse, girls soccer, boys swimming, girls tennis, as well as track and field.
We're anywhere from a few days to nearly two weeks into the seasons for each of the above sports. As the temperatures begin to rise, so does the intrigue, interest and action of spring's full slate of sports.
Here are five local storylines to keep an eye on this spring?
1 How will a wild 3A baseball classification and Patriot League shape up?
There is never any shortage of storylines in the Patriot League — perhaps 3A's most famed baseball league. This spring should certainly be no exception.
But while much of the talk in years past has often centered on who, if anyone, is going to challenge longtime powerhouse for the throne, the most prominent discussion this year may be on whether Eaton can continue to be a top contender within its own tough league and classification.
The Reds come into the season ranked sixth in 3A by CHSAANow.com and are third among Patriot League teams, behind No. 1 University and No. 5 Valley.
Eaton's lineup is short on significant varsity experience, but it should be well guided by first-year head coach and Reds baseball alum Todd Hernandez.
The Bulldogs' No. 1 ranking is well justified as University brings back a strong corps from a team that placed third at state last year. Seniors Paul Medina and Beau Hawley lead the multi-talented squad.
Valley, led by senior Cesar Mercado, senior Shawn Chacon and junior Jose Mercado, should also remain in contention after making it to the eight-team state tournament last season.
Brush is always a threat in the Patriot League and the addition of Resurrection Christian could provide a new challenge.
Beyond the league, longtime stalwarts Faith Christian and Lamar continue to lead a formidable pack in 3A.
2 Will Windsor further emerge as a state title contender?
For the past several years, Windsor has been right on the cusp of breaking into that very top echelon of 4A girls soccer.
The Wizards bring back a very formidable squad after going 17-2 and advancing to the state semifinals last year.
Sophomore Abby Gearhart already has four goals and three assists, while junior Chaynee Kingsbury has three goals and four assists through two games (2-0).
Windsor is ranked fourth in 4A by CHSAANow and has the upside to ascend even higher.
3 Can Eaton's girls track team make it three in a row?
Winning multiple state team titles in a row is never an easy feat, but the Eaton volleyball team has made a habit out of it, claiming its fourth consecutive 3A title this past fall.
Some of those same athletes will try to engineer a similar run on the track team, notably senior Tarynn Sieg, a defending state champion shot put and discus thrower.
Sieg, who is headed to Colorado State this fall, won her first title in discus this past May with a throw of 142 feet, 10 inches, while defending her title in shot put with a throw of 45-5. In doing so, she helped the Reds to a second straight 3A girls title.
With seniors Tayler Hays and Emma Willadsen also providing vital leadership, Eaton should be right in the mix for another state title this spring.
4 Can Windsor and Northridge take that next step in 4A baseball?
A year ago, an up-and-coming Northridge squad was just a couple runs short of qualifying for the eight-team state tournament. The Grizzlies fell 7-6 in extra innings of the District 3 championship with a state berth at stake. They finished the season with a 13-8 record.
With a large contingent of juniors and sophomores last year, Northridge's young team is all grown up now and will be gunning for a trip back to the state tournament.
Windsor was even more impressive last spring, capping a 20-5 season with a third-place finish at state.
The Wizards have a big hole to fill on the mound after standout Jake Greenwalt graduated and began a pro career. They also replace several of their top hitters.
However, Windsor still comes into this season with optimism, while also garnering optimism from others. The Wizards are ranked fourth in 4A by CHSAANow.
5 How low can Greeley Unified shoot, how high can it aim?
Even more so than usual, Greeley Unified has a hodgepodge of players — from a variety of Greeley schools as well as a player, junior Sammy Chandler, from Valley.
Greeley has really come into its own in recent years, winning its fifth consecutive conference title and tying for a regional championship last season. It placed fourth at the 4A state meet.
Greeley has a sixth consecutive conference title and a third consecutive trip to state in its crosshairs.
Senior Emma Moser returns to lead the team after placing 28th individually at state last year.