I watched with Gilbert High baseball fans and parents surrounding me what they assumed — perhaps rightfully so — was the Tigers' final game of the 2014 season on tthe afternoon of April 29 at Mesquite High School.
Gilbert lost that game, 4-3, to host Mesquite. The Tigers began that day No. 21 in the power-rankings. The four teams immediately behind them in the rankings all won their finales that day or the next. A correct way to describe the feeling of virtually all involved with the program was resignation. At 15-13 overall and 9-9 the Tigers are who they are. A .500 team.
Thanks, however, in great part to the overall prowess of the section Gilbert competed in — nine of the 10 teams in D-I Section 2 qualified for the playoffs — Gilbert was pleasantly surprised when it found out on bracket-release day two days later they were in as the 22nd seed.
In with 23 other teams and nothing to lose right? Right. The Tigers haven't lost yet disposing of three recent state championship programs Brophy Prep, Mountain Pointe and Horizon in succession. Brophy checked in at #11, Mountain Pointe at #6 and Horizon at #3. They have a counterpart on the west side of the Valley in Peoria's Liberty High. The Lions are the No. 20 seed and have eliminated #13 Mountain Ridge, #4 Desert Ridge and put #5 Sandra Day O'Connor in harms way if the Eagles lose one more time. Liberty sported a 20-8 record with its No. 20 seed. Not much different than some of the teams with seeds in the top 10.
How has Gilbert's run to date happened? It's not magic. Gilbert has played well. Capitalized on the opposition's mistakes when presented the chance. Collected hits in the clutch and not from just one or two players. The pitching the last two games has been solid from Alex Goodman and Chase Merriman.
Gilbert managed to qualified for the tournament and is making the most of it. In football and basketball teams winning 70 to 90 percent or more of their games generally take down teams .500 or below.
What Gilbert has done thus far this postseason is shownthe fine line of the sport that makes it unique. Heck, the Diamondbacks who are winning one of every three games just took two out of three from ta team winning two out of every three — Milwaukee. In 2006 the St. Louis Cardinals qualified for postseason with the worst record — 83-78. They went on and won the World Series over teams that won nearly 100 games.
Gilbert hasn't won a championship yet. It takes on No. 2 Chaparral on Saturday (May 10) at 4 p.m. at Tempe Diablo Stadium. But hope that flickered less than two weeks ago has been rekindled for the Tigers. And made them believe the difference between a 24-4 team and 15-13 team isn't that much. It's baseball.