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Sahuarita slugger spurns NMSU for full ride at Eastern Arizona

Citizen Staff Writer

Southern Arizona isn’t the only place the talents of Sahuarita senior left fielder Leo Sierra are getting noticed.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound slugger decided this week to turn down a partial scholarship offer from New Mexico State University, despite the lure of being tutored by hitting coach Gary Ward, a College Baseball Hall of Famer after becoming one of the sports winningest coaches at Oklahoma State.

Instead, Sierra said he is holding firm with his commitment to accept a full scholarship to play next year at Eastern Arizona.

“I told (NMSU assistant coach Chase) Tidwell just (Tuesday) night that I couldn’t pass up the full scholarship opportunity,” Sierra said. “He said he understood, and said this wasn’t a one-time offer. If after one season or two seasons I want to go there, he said I’m still welcome.”

Eastern Arizona also has signed Tucson High pitcher Alan Garcia.

Sierra said learning from Gary Ward at NMSU, and his son Rocky Ward, the team’s head coach, was tempting.

“I talked to him for awhile,” Sierra said. “With Gary, you just know by talking with him, he knows his stuff. Its unbelievable to think about all he has done in the game.”

Sierra has also received interest of late from Oklahoma State and took a recruiting visit to Lubbock Christian University, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the NAIA Top 25 poll.

Things are going well for Sierra and his Mustangs. Sahuarita is off to a 12-3 start in games that count toward the Class 4A Division II Power Rankings, placing the team No. 2 in the state heading into Thursday’s Gila Region showdown at Douglas.

Nobody is catching No. 1 seed Cottonwood Mingus, but solidifying that No. 2 spot will be key in avoiding Mingus in the single-elimination state tournament for as long as possible.

Sierra is hitting .426 this season and, although he says he is disappointed with just four home runs on the year, he has been pitched around frequently.

Headed to Russia

The Tucson-based Club Dinamo 16-Elite volleyball team has been invited to participate in the Victor Filipchenko Memorial Volleyball Tournament in Moscow, Russia, May 7-12.

The team is comprised of area girls volleyball players who also play each fall for their respective high school teams.

According to an e-mail from Club Dinamo coach Chris Gonzalez, a former University of Arizona assistant coach, “The tournament is dedicated to the Soviet Union’s 65th anniversary of their victory in World War II. (I told my kids to bring their history books to compare with the other nation’s players!)”

Club Dinamo is the only team from the United States participating.

In addition to Gonzalez and assistant coach Dan Bithell (Pima Community College), there will be 10 area girls taking the trip: Alexis Ammerman (Tucson High), Madeline Bushman (Sabino), Kristen Byers (Flowing Wells), Michaela Christiaansen (Ironwood Ridge), Catherine Coyle (Salpointe), Morgan Eaton (Ironwood Ridge), Meghan Finley (Sahuarita), Danielle Gies (Salpointe), Taylor Lane (Amphi) and Jessica Van Zjill (Green Fields).

McCollum joins Bobcats

Former Sahuaro football coach Chuck McCollum will be joining the Cienega coaching staff this fall.

Cienega head coach Nemer Hassey said McCollom will join assistant Jay Johnson in coaching the offensive line.

“We’ve always been able to throw with the best of them,” Hassey said. “We’re really going to get committed to balance this year and with those guys all helping coach the line, we’re going to be able to run from now on.”

McCollum replaced Hassey at Sahuaro in 2001 when Hassey took over at Cienega. His stepping down at Sahuaro after the 2008 season was one of nine coaching changes among the 25 Class 4A and 5A schools scheduled to compete in southern Arizona regions next year.

Cienega went 9-3 in 2008, including a 5-0 record in the 4A Kino Region. The Bobcats lost in the 4A-I state quarterfinals.

Fall ball tryouts on May 23

The Chicago White Sox fall scout team tryouts are around the corner.

Former Sahuarita head coach Bryan Huie, who is a part-time scout for the White Sox and has run the team’s fall scout team for several years, will oversee the May 23 tryouts at Pima Community College.

The tryouts, open to any baseball player who will be in high school for the 2009-10 season, start at 7:30 a.m., have a $25 tryout fee and will last the better part of the day.

Several players who have played on Huie’s teams in recent years have gone on to either play collegiately or be drafted by Major League Baseball teams, including Manny Barreda (Sahuarita, New York Yankees), Chapo Delgado (Sahuarita, St. Louis Cardinals) and Travis Jones (Sabino, Kansas City Royals).

The team plays Arizona junior college teams each Saturday for 10 consecutive weeks starting in August and running through October.

Have some news or notes for the Prep Notebook? E-mail ggrammer@tucsoncitizen.com


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