Hamilton hopes to keep sending runners home in groups as it fights for a state title.
High school baseball seemingly sees the most upsets once the state tournament rolls around.
All it takes is one hot pitcher, a bloop and a blast or a little two-out rally when the opposing pitcher all of the sudden can’t get anyone out.
It just might be as unpredictable as a tsunami.
“Baseball does allow for more upsets because so much is not under your control,” Hamilton (Chandler) coach Mike Woods said.
Woods and the Huskies, the top seed in Division I, are looking to avoid the unpredictability that has defined the playoffs thus far. Of the four teams remaining in the D-I championship bracket, there is No. 20 Liberty (Peoria) and No. 22 Gilbert.
Hamilton faces Liberty Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Tempe Diablo, while Gilbert is hoping to keep its run going against No. 2 Chaparral (Scottsdale).
Division II’s championship bracket is more straightforward with the top four seeds advancing, but No. 11 Cactus Shadows (Cave Creek) and No. 12 Gila Ridge (Yuma) were lurking in the consolation brackets heading into Friday’s action after knocking off the sixth and fifth seeds, respectively, in the second round.
It’s the magical feel to baseball that isn’t always there in other sports.
“You can hit the ball well and still make an out, hit it weakly and get a hit, make a great pitch and still get hit,” Woods said. “That’s why they play 162 in the majors. Even the worst team beats the Yankees one out of three.”
The new format – started last year when the tournament went from a 16-team double elimination to having 24 teams qualify with the double elimination portion not starting until the final eight – also puts emphasis on pitching depth as teams prepare to play every other day.
“It does mean you need to use your No. 3 starter at least once,” Woods said. “In the old system, if you stayed in the winner’s bracket you could get by using only two starters.”
The two smaller divisions have less leeway with the single elimination format throughout the 24-team tournaments entering Friday’s second round, but don’t surprised if a double-digit seeded team sends one of the top eight seeds packing.
“Having a high seed is nice, but really means very little,” Woods said.
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothill News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-272-2449.