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Cottonwood baseball guns for a state title, even after losing six starters to graduation

Mar 31, 2017 10:04AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Cottonwood baseball players get goofy at the team's annual Halloween game. (Jason Crawford/Cottonwood baseball)

By Brian Shaw | brian.shaw@mycityjournals.com 

At Cottonwood, the baseball program doesn't rebuild, according to head coach Jason Crawford. It just reloads. The Colts haven't missed making the playoffs since 2012 and Crawford doesn't expect that to change this season.

The three-time defending region champions went 26-6 and were just one day away from winning it all last year, Crawford said. Two consecutive third-place finishes at state have made this team resolute that they'll win it all this year, he added. 

“We're lucky. We've got a lot of players that have worked hard all year and become better. And we've got a great coaching staff that has been together for a while, so that helps too,” he said.

In all, Crawford has been at the helm for seven years. His assistant Chris Shelton—who played Major League Baseball for several years after playing at Utah as a collegian—has been there all seven years with Crawford as well. And pitching coach Dusty Nielsen has been there five, giving Cottonwood's staff a consistency other baseball programs simply do not have.

That's a good thing in a loaded region that Crawford himself said is difficult from top to bottom.

“I have a lot of respect for Bingham and what they do over there,” he added, singling out five of the seven teams in the region as ones to watch out for.

Despite losing six starters to graduation, Crawford said that he believes his three returning starters—third baseman Hunter Heugly, catcher Christopher Rowan and pitcher Jeff Borquez—along with a move-in from Las Vegas, senior pitcher/infielder Hayden Rosenkrantz, make the Colts just as dangerous as last year.

The only catch according to Crawford is that others around them will have to fill in the giant gaps left by the six departed graduates—all of whom are now playing college baseball.

“It's all the pieces around it that we need everybody to step up in and do their jobs.” Crawford said, referring to the glut of freshmen and sophomores who will be called upon to play huge roles due to the departures of so many seniors.

For the three returning starters tasked with keeping the consistency, they may have big shoes to fill but they're capable, according to Crawford.

Heugly is a three-time All-State selection who has started every game since his freshman year, said Crawford. He's slated to bat in the middle of the lineup and is committed to play at the College of Southern Nevada.

Rowan, the team's catcher has been All-State two years running and is committed to play at Utah, while left-handed pitcher Jeff Borquez, also a senior and also committed to play at the College of Southern Nevada like Heugly, is the third of three returning starters for the Colts.

As for the fourth, Rosenkrantz, the Washington State commit is perhaps the most intriguing of all of Cottonwood's seniors. At 6-feet-4-inches and 170 pounds, the transfer from Centennial (Las Vegas) High School has been clocked at throwing a fastball 87 m.p.h. He was named Nevada Second-Team All-State by the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2016 and was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA.

“We expect big things from him,” added Crawford, who said the Colts will also feature an underclassman who was a former player on the Cuban national team before he defected to the United States. If this is the year for Cottonwood, the pieces appear to be there for sure.

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