Mesquite baseball shrugs off ‘rebuilding’ year
In the last five seasons, the Mesquite baseball program was one of the best in the East Valley. The Wildcats went 115-54 in that span, making the title game once and the semifinals three other times.
But as everyone watched the final part of that core graduate last spring, the run was thought to be over. Zero starting pitchers and two position players returned from the 2012 squad, and it was evident that this year would likely be a rebuilding one.
“On paper, every team is better than us,” Mesquite coach Jeff Holland said.
Funny thing is, though, Mesquite isn’t playing like it. The Wildcats improved to 17-7 overall and 9-4 in power point games with a 9-7 win over No. 6 Gilbert on Tuesday. It followed up a victory over No. 1 Hamilton at Chase Field on Saturday, and the Wildcats now boast a six-game winning streak.
Senior Matt Waldren – one of the two returning starters along with shortstop Brad Holland – is leading the way offensively with a .440 average and a team-high three home runs, but it’s mostly been pitching and defense which has made Mesquite a pleasant surprise.
Junior pitcher Matt Heibult is the ace with a 6-1 record and 1.95 ERA, and the pitching staff as a whole is allowing fewer than four earned runs per contest.
In the summer and fall months, Holland said his young players heard all about how bad Mesquite was supposed to be this season, and he believes it motivated them.
“Nobody expected us to be in any ballgames, and I was realistic with them about that, but I told them at the beginning of the year that we’re not going to use the excuse that we’re young,” Holland said.
Mesquite has four regular season games remaining, including a pair this week against tough opponents Basha and Hamilton, but is zeroing in on a playoff berth.
“We’ve just got to continue to win,” Holland said.