Despite weather challenges, Coconino baseball working toward state playoff berth

March 29, 2024 by Brian M. Bergner Jr., AZPreps365

The Coconino Panthers’ baseball team smiles for a photo while waiting to play Bradshaw Mountain on Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Prescott Valley. (Brian M. Bergner Jr./AzPreps365)

PRESCOTT VALLEY — Despite having lost three straight, including a 14-4 loss to No. 6 Bradshaw Mountain on Thursday, Coconino baseball remains optimistic about their chances at state this spring.

Ryker Patten, starting centerfielder for the Panthers (8-7, 0-3 4A Grand Canyon), believes the team is working with a “sense of urgency.”

“We don’t have time to mess around, we have to get to it. We don’t have the luxury of practicing every day on the field,” said Patten, who pointed to weather challenges the club has faced due to Flagstaff receiving nearly 100 inches of snow this winter, and could eclipse that mark this weekend with a pending stormfront.

“It’s all ahead of us. The teams we’re playing now are high in the rankings, these are big games for us. Every game matters,” Patten said prior to the matchup with Bradshaw Mountain on Thursday.

Starting pitcher Connor Culwell, who struggled against the Bears on Thursday, allowing six earned runs on five hits in 2-1/3 innings pitched, believes he’s grown into the role of a No. 1 starter.

“I try not to think about it a lot because I know I have a solid defense behind me. If I don’t pitch the way I want to, our offense can take care of the rest,” said Culwell, who had six strikeouts in the loss.

Culwell added that Grand Canyon region play is always tough in northern Arizona.

“With region play, it’s our best versus their best, and that’s always fun,” Culwell said, adding that the state playoffs are a goal for these Panthers.

“I think state playoffs are attainable. We didn’t start the way we wanted to this year, but we can’t let things in the past get in our way,” Culwell said.

First-year head coach Cristo Tabares said he wasn’t going to act like the weather issues so far this spring don’t affect his club, but he preaches offseason work because of that fact.

“We know once it comes to March, or sometimes the beginning of April, we might have to play some catchup. I tell my guys, control the controllables. We know what we can do…the weather, the fact that some teams may have played more games, we can’t control that,” Tabares said. “If we get caught up on thinking about those things, it affects our performance.”

Coconino made it to the 4A state playoffs last season as a No. 16 seed, but fell to Salpointe Catholic 5-4.

If the Panthers are to return to the playoffs, Tabares pointed to some improvements the team can continue to make as they move through the schedule this spring, including cleaning up unnecessary errors.

“I think flushing simple mistakes and moving on is important, because baseball is a full seven innings and a lot can happen in those seven innings,” Tabares said.


Coconino wraps up the month of March by hosting Thunderbird on Friday, March 29. First pitch set for 4 p.m.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. has covered professional, collegiate and high school sports for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @AzPreps365Brian. Have a story idea? Email Brian at