The Fountain Hills High School baseball season ended on Saturday, May 6. The Falcons finished the 2022 season with their most wins in a season since 2016, and their No. 3 ranking was their first top-three ranking since 2015.
The Falcons were young and rebuilding last season after losing nine seniors to graduation from the 2021 team. The Falcons lost three seniors to graduation after 2022, and the six freshmen and six sophomores in last year’s varsity lineup showed signs of growth and maturity this year.
Under head coach Bob Langer, the Falcons improved their record from 11-14 to 15-8, and their defense and pitching allowed nearly half as many runs. The Falcons allowed 169 runs last year, for an average of 6.76 per game, and this year they allowed 87 runs, for an average of 3.78 runs allowed per game.
Junior David Goldapper was the only pitcher to receive superlatives last year, and he repeated as an all-region second team selection as a pitcher this season. This year, junior Kyan Taylor was also named to the all-region second team, and junior Lucas Williams was named to the all-region first team.
Taylor missed playoffs because of injury, but Goldapper and Williams pitched in both playoff outings this year. Junior Nathan Hughes was named an all-region honorable mention, and he pitched in the 11-3 playoff win over ALA – Ironwood. Sophomore Aidan Cronican was an all-region second team selection as a position player, and he pitched in the 2-1 loss to River Valley in the quarterfinals.
“All the guys, all the seniors, we battled,” Williams said. “We obviously wanted to get it for them, but I mean next year, all of us are going to be seniors. That loss this year, it’s just going to drive us even more to go out and get it done next year for the town and the community.”
Williams said winning a state title means everything to him and his teammates, and the Falcons worked toward that goal all year long. The Falcons started the season 2-5, but then they won nine games in a row and didn’t lose for over a month.
Fountain Hills finished second in its region, and their only region losses came against Northwest Christian (29-2). The Crusaders won their second straight state championship this year, but the Falcons played much closer games against them this year.
“We’ve always known we were good, and we always knew we had it in us to win,” Williams said. “We just didn’t let those losses get us down and just kept fighting through.”
Even during their month-long win streak, the Falcons had ups and downs. There’s plenty for the Falcons to work on this offseason, and they’re all motivated to come back even stronger next year.
The Falcons had five other players receive superlatives, making 10 in total. Junior Tyler Langer repeated as an all-region first team selection, and he was joined by junior catcher Tyler Flynn and senior Zach Mendello on the first team.
Mendello and Langer led the team and each batted above .400, and Flynn improved his average from .308 to .397 this year. Flynn was third on the team in batter average last season too, but the team-wide batting average improved this year from .280 to .310.
Sophomore Zion Sidhu made the all-region second team and had the fifth best batting average on the team (.333). He improved his on base percentage (OBP) from .391 to .509, and he had the third best OBP of any Falcon with more than five plate appearances.
Senior Tim Lamar was a valuable addition this year and was named an all-region honorable mention. Lamar hit a walk off double to beat Chino Valley 4-3, and he had twice as many stolen bases as any other Falcon this season.
“He was so big in our dugout,” Tyler Langer said. “I don’t know why [Lamar] is so fast, but he was a huge part of our team to just run, because every time he got on, he was on third from running bases.”
The Falcons are graduating five seniors: Devyn Hernandez, Cy Dethlefs, Kyle Biebrich, Mendello and Lamar. According to teammates, Hernandez was a reliable designated hitter throughout the season, and Biebrich and Dethlefs each had good outings and brought experience to the pitching bullpen. Biebrich was the only senior to play for Fountain Hills all four years, but Dethlefs did bring experience from out of state.
“It's going to be a few spots to fill in for sure, and the dugout is kind of the main part because people are going to listen to seniors more than sophomores and juniors,” Langer said. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for the younger kids to try to fill in those spots, which I’m excited to see who does it.”
Jack Irwin was the only freshman on varsity and finished third on the team in hits and RBIs, trailing only Flynn and Langer in each category. Sophomores Lucas Grieco, Cooper Loyet and Eli Johnson built on their skills in year two, and Johnson was one of four players to hit a home run this year.
Langer hit seven home runs this year, three more than last year, and Johnson, Cronican, and Hughes all hit their first home runs this season. The Falcons grew in size during the offseason, and their team slugging percentage went up to .437 from .398 last year.
Junior Isiah Challman was new to the team this year and had nine RBIs and 10 hits on a .312 batting average. He’s one of many juniors that can return next year, and the Falcons hope to capitalize on their playoff experience this year and go even further next year.
“Failure’s probably the best thing for us,” Williams said. “Even though it sucks, it’s got to happen in order for us to get better… We played our hearts out, but obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted. Like I said, there’s steps to success, and the only way to get there is failure. We’re going to be back next year, better than ever.”