Pinnacle assistant baseball coach Justin Leiper was only moderately worried about his team’s slow start.
The Pioneers went 0-3 to start the season, but did the exact same thing last year and still finished as the top seed in the Division I state tournament.
“We were a little worried because we weren’t playing anywhere close to where we should have been,” Leiper said.
Pinnacle has since rebounded. Its 13-10 overall record seems middling, but the Pioneers are 7-3 in power-point games and entered Wednesday ranked fifth in the Division I Arizona Interscholastic Association/MaxPreps power rankings.
Leiper still sees room for improvement, of course.
“There’s still a lot of things we can do a lot better,” he said. “We’re starting to hit a little bit more than we were in the beginning. We’ve done a decent job during league play.”
Pinnacle has been helped by a tough schedule, the toughest in Division I, according to the AIA’s rankings formula. The Pioneers have the most losses of anyone ranked in the top 14, and the schedule won’t get much lighter in the final month of the season.
Games against likely playoff-bound teams, such as Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Scottsdale Chaparral and Gilbert, remain.
“I know we designed it to be pretty rough, because it prepares us,” Leiper said.
Leiper hopes last year’s playoff experience prepared the Pioneers, too. Pinnacle made it to the state quarterfinals, but was upended by Chandler Hamilton and knocked into the consolation bracket.
The Pioneers managed just one more win before Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor ended their playoff run with a 4-3 win.
“It was rough then, but in so many ways, it was good to see because it shows that everybody is going to come out with their best against us,” Leiper said. “It’s kind of helped in that it’s going to prepare us.”
The one thing lacking, Leiper said, is team cohesion. For that, Pinnacle will have to rely on its 13 seniors to lead the way.
Many of those seniors play important roles. Parker Manahan, M.J. Hubbs, Brock Hartley and Alec Friedman are all batting above .400. Seniors have accounted for 134 1/3 of the 147 1/3 innings the Pioneers have pitched.
Pinnacle just needs everything to come together at once.
“If we can get everything to click, we’ll be a pretty good ball team,” Leiper said.