Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 2 a.m.
A Southern Nevada high school baseball team is being recognized as one of the best nationally.
And it’s not the team you’re thinking of.
Coronado High of Henderson is ranked No. 25 by Baseball America in its preseason poll, and not seven-time defending Nevada state champion Bishop Gorman. Gorman, however, is ranked No. 15 by Maxpreps.com and is in the top-25 of other polls.
Gorman beat Coronado in last year’s state championship game, but scouts at Baseball America expect Coronado to have the better team this spring. The Baseball America rankings are considered the most prestigious when evaluating high school talent, which means learning of the ranking was a pleasant surprise for the players and coaches at Coronado.
They won the competitive Sunrise Region title last year and return 15 varsity performers and seven starters. The Cougars might also have the best pitching staff in town with four front-line starters — depth of that nature is rare in high school — to catch the eye of national scouts and journalists that help put together the rankings.
“I was surprised,” Coronado coach David Padilla said of the ranking. “I knew we were going to be better this year, but I was shocked by that, especially seeing perennial power Gorman not in. What’s going on there? You have to put them in just for fun. But that’s just one poll. If you look at the other three, they are in and we are not.”
When you consider Coronado finished last year ranked No. 580 nationally by Maxpreps, it’s a significant jump.
“It is really rewarding. It shows all of the hard work we put in and our dedication,” said Dylan Myers, a 6-foot-5 pitcher who is committed to the University of San Diego and was a first-team All-Southern Nevada pitcher last year. “It’s nice that everyone can see that (our work is paying off).”
The season begins Thursday across Southern Nevada, and if Coronado’s preseason exposure is any indication, Gorman might not be the team to beat. They will at least be challenged.
While losing in the state championship game was a disappointing end to the Cougars’ season last year, there was still plenty of reasons to celebrate. The accomplishment of completing the best season in the program’s 11-year history was more than satisfying, but coming up short in the biggest game of the season left players hungry for more.
“I’m not going to take anything away from what we accomplished last year. That was huge for us,” Padilla said. “From not ever winning the division (Silverado won the Southeast last year) to winning the region and being the state runner-up is an accomplishment. But it does leave you unsatisfied because you always want to finish first.”
The pitching staff is led by three seniors, all of whom are committed to college programs.
Myers went 9-0 with a 2.32 earned run average last year, Pepperdine commit Chandler Blanchard struck out 52 batters in 55 innings pitched with just one walk, and Julian Burrola, a Dixie State College verbal commit, had two wins and a save in the playoffs last year when Coronado peaked. Each player is entering his third year on the varsity team, and each stands taller than 6-foot-3.
“The experience we have means a lot,” Myers said. “It is nice to have the feeling that you can rely on each other (when the game is on the line). The returners learned a lot last year. We already know what we are getting ourselves into.”
That experience likely played a factor in the ranking.
Additionally, speedy outfielder Miles Bice and shortstop/pitcher Cain Brady are both committed to Dixie State College. The left-handed hitting Bice was only caught stealing twice in 21 attempts last year and was one of Coronado’s leading hitters with a .342 average and .542 slugging percentage. Brady is one of the best fielding infielders in the area.
While it appears Coronado has all of the pieces to challenge for a state title, its players know the season will be full of many challenges. Basic and Liberty in the Southeast League, and Green Valley and Silverado in the Sunrise, will be stiff competition.
“We want to come back this year and take it all this time,” Blanchard said. “We felt we could have done better (last year) and we are trying to improve on that.”
And, of course, there is a Gorman squad that’s been the last one standing each season starting in 2006.
“Until somebody beats them, they are No. 1 in our state,” Padilla said.