Thursday marked the first day of the early signing period for all sports besides football. The signing period ends on Wednesday, Nov. 15 but most schools and clubs in Southern Arizona took care of business on the first day. The early signing period for football is Dec. 20-22.
Tucson pitcher George Arias, Jr. and Sahuarita standout Ian Mejia signed with the University of Arizona, as did Ironwood Ridge catcher Isabel Pacho.
We had softball players, a top golfer, baseball players, a volleyball standout, a nationally-ranked bowler, a standout gymnast, a top wrestler and a highly-rated Acrobatics & Tumbling athlete. In short, we had them all.
They came from Nogales, Sahuarita, Vail, Benson, Oro Valley, Marana and Tucson. There were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and various siblings and we were there for most of the activities from 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. 200 miles or so, seven cakes (or so) and a lot of smiling faces.
Hope Adams, Softball: Pima
Canyon del Oro
Ellessa Bonstrom, Softball: Utah
Stephanie Cota, Softball: Jamestown
Kirsten Garcia, Softball: Arizona Christian
Anya Gonzalez, Softball: Syracuse
Alexis Kaiser, Softball: Syracuse
Mikayla Santa Cruz, Softball: ASU
Tyler Porter, Baseball: Central Arizona
Jonathan Walters, Golf: Western Carolina
Aaron Folsom, Baseball: Kansas Wesleyan
Charles Stewart, Baseball: Kansas Wesleyan
Nicole Conway, Softball: Yale
Dante DeNiro, Baseball: Grand Canyon
Audrey Nicholson, Basketball: Boston University
Megan Kelch, Softball: Ft. Lewis
“It’s a surreal experience. This relieves a whole lot of stress and it’s a huge milestone for me,” Dante DeNiro said. “I’m going to try to do anything I can to make things easier for my team to give us a shot at a state title,” he added.
“I am so excited,” Nicole Conway said. “I got to watch all my teammates sign and now its my turn and this year we are goign to try to get as many wins as we can and try to have fun.”
Kaitlyn Anderson, Softball: Santa Clara
Abigail Doughty, Softball: Utah Valley
Lauren Green, Basketball: Long Beach State
Stefanny Toala, Bowling: Delaware State
Paige Christian, Acrobatics & Tumbling: Arizona Christian
“I started bowling when I was five and I got noticed by a youth coach,” Stefanny Toala said. “I went to two combines and finished in second place in Arlington, Texas. That’s how I got this opportunity.”
Toala has won the state bowling championship four years in a row.
“I’m so blessed with all the work it got to get here,” Lauren Green explained. “Now I can concentrate on playing basketball and helping my teammates grow from last year.”
Emylee Perry, Softball: North Central Texas
Clayton Daly, Baseball: Colorado School of Mines
Isabel Pacho, Softball: Arizona
Morgan Reidhead, Softball: Salt Lake Community College
Karagan Knowles, Softball: Emerson
Morgan Gappmayer, Volleyball: NAU
Kelsey Hawkins, Softball: Grand Canyon
Reilly Tidwell, Softball: Western Oregon
Kevin Jimenez, Baseball: New Mexico State
Mark Lopez, Baseball: New Mexico State
Jessica Giacoma, Softball: Pima
Bailey Tanner, Softball; Loyola Marymount
Julia Vega, Softball: Western New Mexico
Maddie Mariana, Gymnastics: Michigan
Carly Gray, Softball: Regis
Gabriella Ramirez, Softball: Embry Riddle
Taylor Ostrum, Softball: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Tyler Wiltshire, Baseball: Minot State
Regan Jenkins, Softball: British Columbia
Evan Fallwell: Baseball, Minot State
“I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,” Evan Fallwell said. “I’ve been playing with Tyler (Wiltshire) since I was 11 and I’m glad we have the opportunity to play together in college.”
Evan’s older brother, Tyler Fallwell, pitched Palo Verde to a state championship and he picked up his first professional win this year with the Burlington Royals.
“I was super active as a kid and my mom wanted me to try gymnastics,” Maddie Mariana said. “We started to realize when I was about 12 that I was getting pretty good and I’m grateful for the opportunity to compete for Michigan.”
Maddie’s father, Mark Mariani, played football for Sahuaro and UTEP.
Saul Escarcega, Baseball: Cochise
Ian Mejia, Baseball; Arizona
Chris Barraza, Baseball: New Mexico State
Areli Jones, Softball: Gateway
Lauren Wedman, Softball: Colorado Mesa
Danielle Jamieson, Softball: Embry Riddle
Ashley Bradford, Softball: Colorado Mesa
Abi Nash, Volleyball: Lamar
Madi Nash, Volleyball: Pima
Yannira Acuna, Softball: ASU
Roman Bravo Young, Wrestling: Penn State
George Arias, Jr. Baseball: Arizona
Alex Kelch, Baseball: San Diego
“This was my dream school and I’m happy,” George Arias, Jr. said. “I really fell in love with the coaches and team and when they offered I jumped on it.”
George’s father, George Arias, played for Arizona before moving on the the majors.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com