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Zach Tweed entered his senior season with the Northland Prep Spartans baseball team wanting to make up for lost time, so when his shoulder flared up during a game not too far into the season, the senior got a bit of a scare.

“That injury was super devastating to me because I really wanted to play great during my junior year to get ready for my senior year," said Tweed, who hurt his non-throwing shoulder sliding into second base during a game last season. "When I hurt my shoulder, that was really a bummer, and it kinda sucks when everyone is playing without you.”

He went to the doctor and it turned out that no significant damage was done to the shoulder that had caused him to miss most of the 2018 season. So Tweed continued to do significant damage to his opponents.

Tweed ended the overall season that included games played outside of the power-points schedule with a .447 batting average, an ERA at 1.47 over 38 innings pitched and a spot on the 2A All-Conference Second Team. The right-handed workhorse helped the Spartans go 11-4 in the regular season, get through a play-in game and win their first state tournament game since 2013.

For his strong return to the diamond and role in helping his team reach its goals, Tweed has been named the 2019 Arizona Daily Sun Baseball Athlete of the Year.

Tweed took getting back to being healthy seriously, doing physical therapy and putting in extra practice time so he could shine as an upperclassman. He was earnest about every part of the program, from teammates and coaches to practices and ballgames.

When first-year Spartans manager Matt Schmidt first told the team his expectations of the program, Tweed was just as pleased as he was impressed.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this actually means a lot to everybody as much as it does to me.’ And just having that backing, I was thinking this program could turn into something really great," Tweed said.

Tweed, who was named to the All-Central Region First Team as a pitcher, helped paint the corners of greatness for the Spartans this year.

He threw a two-hitter against Antelope Union as Northland Prep went on to win the play-in game, 10-0. Then the real goal was up to bat as the Spartans looked to snap a streak of losing state tournament games.

During their stretch of looking for an elusive state victory, the Spartans fell three times as the better seed, including a 2015 defeat in the second round after receiving an opening-round bye. Moreover, this season they were up against a St. Johns team that nixed them from the state tourney bracket right off the bat a year ago.

Avenging the loss and breaking the trend made the postseason victory extra sweet, especially for Tweed. 

“I feel like everything we’ve been working on the entire season came together, and everyone was positive, working together, and the bats were on and the defense was on, and it just all came together and we got that win," Tweed said.

Tweed pitched four innings against Antelope Union and 72 hours later thew a one-hitter against St. Johns through five innings of work. He added to his cause with two hits and an RBI, and Northland Prep cruised to a 13-2 victory to advance.

“It was against the better teams," Schmidt said of how he used Tweed's arm. "He had to work for that and pull from the support of the team. And I think we were a better team when he was out there because the players knew he was expecting a lot out of them.”

Those expectations from Tweed helped the team survive a tough start to a frustrating spring season that was affected continually by inclement weather. For much of the first half of the season, the Spartans were stuck indoors for practices working on ways to stay sharp. Tweed was there to help lead the practices, keep them positive and interesting.

“When he came back this season, he didn’t miss a step," Schmidt said. "He moved into that senior role as a leader. We were stuck in the gym at the first portion of the season; I think we played three games before we even got to practice outside here.”

Tweed had a way of taking everything, even practices, to a next level.

“He was always urging the team to do more, to always get a little better and expect a little more from themselves,” Schmidt said.

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Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at mhartman@azdailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.

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