This time of year is special for Jaxon Sorenson, whose beloved Gonzaga basketball team is heading into March Madness as the Goliath of the field.
March also marks a special milestone locally as area baseball teams return for the 2021 season after being shut down in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Sorenson says he’s ready. The Idaho Falls senior was a Post Register All-Area first-team selection as a sophomore for the Tigers and was also part of the Idaho Falls Bandits team that won the American Legion World Series in 2019.
Even after missing last year’s high school season, Sorenson may already be the frontrunner for All-Area player of the year.
After signing to play baseball at Gonzaga, there’s no distraction from recruiting. There’s also a new challenge of Idaho Falls moving up to 5A and facing the best players and best pitching in the state.
“The only expectation right now it go out and win a state championship,” said Sorenson, who played third base, second base and also pitched as a sophomore.
Bonneville coach Ryan Alexander, who also coaches the Bandits, raved about Sorenson’s baseball IQ and his upside, even as a sophomore.
Sorenson credits this past American Legion season for getting him ready for the spring.
“This summer was huge,” he said. “I developed more mentally as a baseball player and physically and I’m able to do more things with my arm strength … I got better.”
The return of baseball
How teams and players rebound after not having a high school season in 2020 will be an interesting storyline to follow.
The good news is that American Legion had a summer season and most players were able to get back on the field and hone their skills.
That storyline might impact South Fremont, which had a solid American Legion season and returns some talent after finishing third in the 2019 state high school tournament.
The Cougars are deep in the infield with Peyson Yancey or Karter Yancey at third base, Kaimen Peebles at shortstop, Karter Yancey or Bridger Erickson at second base and Bryson Forbush at first.
“I’m pretty excited about our infield,” South Fremont head coach Chad Hill told Koster Kennard of the Standard Journal. “They’ve looked pretty good. They played a lot of ball last summer and I think they’ll be pretty solid this year.”
Like most small schools, the roster features plenty of multi-sport athletes, making the three-team Mountain Rivers Conference as competitive as ever.
South Fremont’s rival might be Sugar-Salem, which is off to a 4-0 start entering Thursday and actually reached the state championship game in 2019, falling to Marsh Valley.
Last time there was a high school baseball season, Idaho Falls and Bonneville battled within the conference and the district tournament and eventually met up in the 4A state championship game. Bonneville won that game behind the pitching of ace Randon Hostert, who would eventually be drafted by the Texas Rangers before deciding to attend the University of Utah.
Is there a new rivalry brewing this year? Idaho Falls has moved on to 5A so those games with the Bees won’t have the same impact.
Maybe Idaho Falls and Highland will develop a rivalry. Maybe Firth and Challis-Mackay in the 2A Nuclear Conference can make some noise.
Things should become more clear in the coming weeks as teams start to move out of their gyms and onto their diamonds.