Hanging on the canopy behind home plate at Diamondback Field is all the motivation the baseball team that calls the field home needs.
Desert Oasis, or the Las Vegas Aces, as the team calls itself during the summer season, won the 2016 American Legion state title and has every intention of repeating when the tournament begins Saturday. The Aces will open against the Las Vegas Patriots at 8 p.m. at Wilson Stadium on the UNLV campus.
“Anytime we have a chance to win something that there’s a chance to win, we want to win,” Aces coach Paul Buboltz said. “Spring and summer are the two chances we have to win a state championship and go beyond.”
Desert Oasis didn’t lose many seniors from the spring team that went 14-4 in Sunset Region play, and the younger players have stepped up to lead the Aces to a 15-3 record in American Legion play and 30-8 overall this summer.
Parker Schmidt, who didn’t blow anyone away with his spring stats, has caught fire this summer. The junior is hitting .468 (59 for 126), the best among Aces who have played at least half the games, and is tied for the team lead with 42 RBIs.
“It feels good going out every day and getting hits and helping the team win,” Schmidt said. “You can think about your approach a lot, move your approach over to spring and it will help in the next year to do better in spring.”
Senior Chaison Miklich led Desert Oasis with five home runs in the spring and has hit six this summer. Senior Cole Schaefer has also found his stroke and, while playing a strong shortstop, is making his case to replace graduated senior Gage Ventura behind the plate.
And it’s always nice to have a player who was drafted play for a high school team. American Legion allows recently graduated players to compete, and the Aces have Brett Brocoff, who was selected in the 28th round by the Atlanta Braves in June. He didn’t sign with Atlanta and will attend the University of Utah.
The winner of the tournament will head to the Western Regional Tournament in Colorado in early August, with the winner advancing to the American Legion World Series in North Carolina.
But first is the state tournament, and the biggest obstacle to the Aces repeating is the back-to-back spring state champions. Basic, or the Southern Nevada Blue Sox, went 17-0 in American Legion play this summer and earned the top seed in the tournament.
The Blue Sox beat the Aces twice: 4-3 on May 30 and 10-3 on June 10. A July 10 loss to Centennial (Las Vegas Bulldogs) was the only other loss for the Aces.
The Aces beat the Blue Sox in last year’s American Legion state championship game and are seeded second for the tournament.
“As the No. 2 seed … we have to work hard to get back to where we were last year,” Schaefer said. “We beat them in the championship last year, and it would be pretty cool to beat them again this year.”