The pinging sound of aluminum bats meeting rawhide leather baseballs cut through a rainy Thursday afternoon at Canyon del Oro High School.
Responsible for the sounds was a group of fresh-faced baseball players taking turns swinging away in a mesh-enclosed batting cage, readying themselves for the marathon season that awaits them.
While the Dorados are ready to take a swing at players from different teams from across the region, they’re counting the hours until their home opener Thursday, Feb. 28 against the defending 4A champions, Nogales High School.
This year’s squad will feature seven seniors, including left-handed pitcher Ben Cordova and catcher/right-handed pitcher Enrique ‘Kiko’ Romero.
First-year coach Jason Hisey, who took over for longtime skipper Keith Francis, has high expectations for his team this spring. Hisey’s confidence stems from the Dorados’ 21-10 record last year, which ended in a pair of losses to Sunrise Mountain and Nogales in the 4A playoffs.
The former Catalina Foothills High School and Pima Community College coach said this year’s Dorados squad is as talented as any he’s led so far in his career.
“They’re all very good baseball players,” Hisey said. “It’s always fun to go to the fight with a chance to win every day. You need to control your own destiny, and I think with these guys we’ll have a shot to do that.”
Cordova, who posted a 3-1 record a year ago, said the team is ready to get started under Hisey, calling the new coach’s regime a change of pace over previous seasons.
“We’re prepared, and obviously it’s different,” Cordova said. “It’s kind of refreshing at the same time. It’s our last year, our senior year, so it’s nice to have a little bit of refreshment and feel prepared for our last season.”
Romero, who finished last year with six saves in 13 appearances out of the bullpen for the Dorados as a junior, believes the team have the right blend of experience and talent to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.
Romero expects Hisey to take the squad to new heights, as the Dorados look to win their first state title since 2015.
“We have a pretty good team,” he said. “I mean, we have a really good chance of [winning a state title],” Romero said. “But we just need to really grind.”
Embracing the grind of preseason practice, with the relative malaise of batting practice, combined with fielding and pitching routines may seem mundane at the moment. Hisey knows these seemingly insignificant moments are what develop the camaraderie and confidence that championship teams are made of. He’s ready to carry on the proud tradition of the Oro Valley program, which has won eight state titles in its history.
“Every coach that’s coached here, I think five of them have won state championships,” Hisey said. “There’s a long line of quality coaches and quality teams. We, meaning all the players and myself, have a tremendous responsibility to keep that tradition, and we’re working very hard to do that.”
The Dorados kicked off their title quest in Phoenix, at the Adam Donnenfield Tournament, where they played Mesa’s Skyline High School, losing 12-5.
Hisey expects the tournament will help his team prepare themselves for the difficult 4A Kino region, which includes last year’s runner-up, Catalina Foothills, amongst other talented programs.
“I haven’t coached a high school team in eight or nine years, so everything’s changed a lot since I was doing it, but I would just assume, from going out and recruiting and seeing those teams over and over again, that it’s going to be highly competitive,” Hisey said. “Keith [Francis] put together a very competitive schedule. Tough opponents. We’ve got a couple tough tournaments, so, it’s not going to be easy.”