For the third time in four years Arizona will be represented in one of the premier high school baseball events across the nation.
Horizon is heading to the National High School Invitational at USA Baseball's training complex in Cary, N.C.
"The National High School Invitational continues to bring together some of the top programs and talents from around the U.S. for a one-of-a-kind high school baseball experience," Paul Seiler, USA Baseball's executive director/CEO, said in a news release. "In just three years, the NHSI has quickly become the premier event on the high school baseball calendar and we are thrilled to partner with the Town of Cary, the Greater Raleigh Sports and our media partner, Baseball America, on the 2015 edition."
It begins on Wednesday and runs through Saturday. Horizon (Scottsdale)
opens the tournament against Loyalsock Township (Williamsport, Pa.)
Horizon is third team from Arizona — after Hamilton (Chandler)
in 2013 and Mountain Pointe (Phoenix)
in 2014 — to play in the event, while Loyalsock is the first from Pennsylvania.
Like the previous teams, Horizon feels like it is completely prepared to take on a tough field simply because of the games it plays on a weekly basis.
"You are prepared because you play in Arizona," Horizon coach Eric Kibler said. "There will be ranked teams, rosters filled with draftable players or Division I players, but we see that just about every time we take the field here."
Horizon (8-2) would seem to have an upper hand simply because the Huskies have 10 games under their belt while Loyalsock, the two-time 2A defending champions, will be playing their first game of the year.
Then again, Loyalsock brings back four Division I players to put on that first lineup card.
The Huskies, who have six state titles under Kibler's guidance with the last one coming in 2010, are well primed to represent Arizona at the NHSI.
Horizon was able to overcome injuries to their top three pitchers, but what it ended up doing was building depth for tournaments like this — and eventually the state tournament — by giving important innings to guys who would have been used in lesser roles if everyone was healthy.
While Chris Isbell
, Ian Sanger
and Matt Hess
were delayed in their start to the season, seniors Mike White
and Josh McGinley
took the ball.
"We had to make some changes but everyone really embraced it," Kibler said. "It's nice to be going to North Carolina with depth and confidence after getting through some adversity early on in the year."
Offensively, Ben Lewis
, McGinley, Ryan Bricker
, Isbell and Matt Kroon
have done the job to the tune of 6.9 runs a game.
Regardless of how the Huskies perform against a very tough 16-team field, Kibler knows the players will come back to Arizona better for it.
"We are looking forward to the competition," Kibler said. "I've been to the (USA Complex) and it will be great for everyone else to experience playing at that kind of venue. It should be a real positive step for our program." Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Prep Sports Director for 1013 Communications, is a 20-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.