High School Baseball

Sahuaro seniors are having the time of their lives, but want state title first

2014-04-22T00:00:00Z 2014-04-22T14:33:07Z Sahuaro seniors are having the time of their lives, but want state title firstBy Chuck Constantino Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 22, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Over the last four years, Sahuaro baseball coach Mark Chandler has had plenty to look back on and smile about with his current group of players, including six seniors who are headed to the next level.

But before they depart, Chandler is hoping the group can help deliver the Cougars their first state title since 1982.

Those six — Hunter Green, Justin Hammergren, Jake Northrup, Vinnie Tarantola, Alex Verdugo and Winston Welch — were among 22 seniors to take part in a signing ceremony at Sahuaro on Monday.

“These guys really work hard,” Chandler said. “They came in as freshmen hungry, ready to do whatever needed to be done, and they haven’t become complacent throughout the years.”

Sahuaro (18-3) has won 12 straight regular-season games and has just five left before the state playoffs begin May 3.

The Cougars, ranked second in Division II, play No. 24 Salpointe Catholic today at 4:30 p.m.

The Star attended Monday’s gathering and caught up with each of the six players to see how they feel heading down the home stretch of their prep careers:

Hunter Green, OF

Signed with: South Mountain Community College

Stat line: Green has committed just one error and is second on the team with 20 runs scored.

Quotable: “We all have the mindset we can make it to the state championship and win it. If we can pitch and hammer the ball like we can, then I feel like we’re the best team in the state.”

Justin Hammergren, LHP/1B

Signed with: Pima College

Stat line: Hammergren leads the Cougars on the mound with a 7-0 record and has a 1.31 ERA. He also leads the team with four home runs and is second with 23 RBIs.

Quotable: “This whole year has been memorable. I’ve been here for four year, and being able to come out here with my best friends, every game is fun.”

Jake Northrup, C/RHP

Signed with: Pima College

Stat line: Northrup, a four-year starter at catcher, has hit seven doubles this season and has registered 136 putouts while committing just one error.

Quotable: “It’s always been a goal of mine to play college baseball, and now it’s coming true.”

Vinnie Tarantola, OF/1B/LHP

Signed with: Pima College

Stat line: Tarantola has done it all as Sahuaro’s utility man, and is one of four four-year players who have helped the Cougars win 85 varsity games over the last four seasons.

Quotable: “We’re going to be doing something special over these next couple of weeks, hopefully. It’s exciting to sign with them, knowing we’re all doing something special, going to play ball in college.”

Alex Verdugo, LHP/OF

Signed with: Arizona State

Stat line: Verdugo, arguably the most notable name in high school baseball statewide, leads the team with a 1.20 ERA and 25 RBIs.

He is 3-2 in six starts, and has struck out 62 batters in 35 innings pitched.

Although he is signed with the Sun Devils, it’s looking more and more like Verdugo will enter the Major League Baseball amateur draft this summer.

Quotable: “I’m living it up right now. It’s just fun. I don’t know when’s the last time I’m going to be able to see these guys before I head to ASU or to play pro baseball.”

Winston Welch, RHP/OF

Signed with: New Mexico Military Institute

Stat line: Welch, in his second season on varsity, is second on the team with 29 hits and a .483 batting average. He’s also 4-0 on the mound.

Quotable: “We signed our (letters of intent) earlier, but this was good being around everybody else. Things are starting to happen now; we’re helping our lives out.”

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