The No. 15 Northland Prep Academy Spartans (6-4) baseball team had its best offensive showing of April on Friday as it dispatched No. 32 Desert Heights Prep (1-8), 17-2, to extend its win streak to three games.
The Spartans, leading the Central Region of the 2A Conference with a 6-1 mark, beat the Coyotes in five innings for their first mercy rule win since March 31 in a 33-5 road victory over North Pointe Prep.
Spartans manager Matt Schmidt attributed the offensive output to a better understanding of Desert Heights’ pitching, making solid contact against balls thrown slower than most of Northland Prep's opponents before the recent run of games.
“At the beginning of the season we played against some teams that had good, fast pitching. So we were kind of geared up for that in practice. With our young, inexperienced team, we didn’t want to get shut down there. And then when we started seeing teams that threw the ball considerably slower, we struggled to put quality hits up,” Schmidt said.
“Having seen it now for basically three games in a row, we’re finally starting to figure that out and get the quality hits we need.”
Seniors Connor Barta and Chase Hamilton led the offensive surge for Nortland Prep. Barta went 3 for 4 with two home runs and four RBIs, while Hamilton went 3 for 5 with six RBIs, including a home run and a double. He also stole two bases.
“Today they kind of found their groove and obviously it worked its way down to the younger kids,” Schmidt said.
Despite the seemingly easy victory, Northland Prep trailed early. Freshman pitcher Jordan Donahue, a player Schmidt has been impressed with early in his high school baseball career, gave up two runs in the top of the opening inning, and the Spartans scored just one to trail 2-1 after the first.
But they responded with innings of four, seven and five runs to blow open the scoring in the second, third and fourth innings. That was all the offense Northland Prep would need.
Meanwhile, Donahue pitched three scoreless innings, striking out seven batters and giving up just two total hits. Sophomore Jerry Wilson pitched the final inning, keeping the scoreless streak going.
Schmidt said he was proud of Donahue’s effort on the mound.
“He has really played above what’s expected of him. For a freshman to come in and take control of the game is not something you expect to see all the time,” Schmidt said.
Northland Prep will take the weekend off before hosting region foe No. 33 Glendale Prep (2-9) in Flagstaff on Monday to celebrate the Spartans’ senior night. Then the Spartans will travel to take on the same Griffins on Tuesday to finish the regular season.
Atop the region with a winning record, Northland Prep is a near shoe-in for the 2A playoffs.
To succeed in the final two games and make a postseason run, Schmidt said the focus will be on creating offense regardless of the quality and speed of pitching the Spartans face.
“In the playoffs you don’t have the luxury to take a game or two to figure things out,” he said. “You have to perform right away, so for our younger guys I’m excited to see how they respond."