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Year In Review: Most Improved

Posted: Tuesday, Jun 12th, 2012


The Marana baseball team, and players like Eli Callahan, really improved under first-year coach Brian Johnson


One of the best things about writing about high school and youth sports is that it is not all about wins and losses. Sure wins and losses are important, but so are other things. Sports is about bettering yourself, becoming part of a team and becoming men and women.

While a championship is always a goal, it canít be the only one. Form 90% of the high school sports programs, if not more, winning a state championship just isnít a realistic goal. Whether there are limitations of talent, funds or available bodies, many teams just arenít equipped to make a deep run into a state tournament.

That does not mean a team cannot have a great season. College and professional sports are businesses, and the bottom line is wins and losses. High school sports get treated in a similar fashion all too often, but those that focus on that aspect miss the big picture.

That is why I am so impressed with what happened with the Marana baseball and boys basketball teams.

At quick glance the Marana baseball teamís 15-13 record was good, but hardly earth shattering. That is, until you compare it to the past few records of the previous Tiger baseball teams. The previous seven seasons the Tigers went 4-19, 3-20-1, 4-20, 5-14, 2-18, 4-19 and 2-18 or a combined 22 wins over that span.

The Tigers did not do it with magic trick or an influx of transfers. They did hire a new coach, tapping Brian Johnson to guide the program. Johnson came from outside the school and is a dedicated baseball coach. The past few coaches had also coached other sports, not that those other sports were a conflict, but having a coach that is focused on baseball 100% of the time seems to agree with the program.

Johnson, a former minor league baseball player and scout, had been running a baseball academy in Tucson and brings that skill set to the Tigers.

The team did not do it by jettisoning the old and starting over. Johnson kept in place several of the old assistants and had a roster that featured seven seniors and 10 juniors. The key was seeing those players improve. Players like David Tinsley, Eli Callahan and Zach Henderson all saw their batting averages climb over .360 and all told seven Tiger players hit .292 or better.

The Tiger arms also improved as the Tigers got reliable outings week after week from KT Vieux, Tanner Thorsrud and closer Addin Soto.

The boys basketball team went just 9-18 but that was an improvement over the past five seasons when the team won a total of eight games.

Jeff Laos knew when he took the Marana job that it would not be a quick fix. His first season the Tigers took their lumps, losing 22 games, but the turnaround is in place. The Tigers beat some good programs like Tucson High and Pueblo, but were also to compete with teams that in yearís past blew them out of the gym. They had two epic showdowns with rival Mountain View and hung with Ironwood Ridge, just a few weeks after a blowout loss to the Nighthawks.



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