No. 22 seed Gilbert High gave No. 2 Chaparral an immediate scare Saturday afternoon with the Tigers' bats blazing to the tune of four runs on five, first-inning hits. Chaparral coach Sam Messina didn't let the first inning end without a pitching change and did so again two batters in to the second inning.
That's where Chaparral had the advantage over Gilbert at this stage of the tournament and the Frirebirds played their pitching cards well.
Senior Austin Kirkby tossed five shutout innings in relief and Chaparral bounced back from a 4-0 deficit to deal the amazing Tigers a 10-5 defeat in the winner's bracket of the Division I baseball tournament at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Chaparral (27-4) advances to play again Thursday May 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Diablo. The Firebirds play either top-seed Hamilton or No. 20 Liberty. Those teams were playing Saturday's late winner's bracket game. Gilbert (18-14) isn't out yet, but plays an elimination game Tuesday at 4 p.m. against city-rival Mesquite, a 9-2 winner over Sandra Day O'Connor. O'Connor was eliminated with the loss.
Chaparral has used seven pitchers in its three tournament games and none are overworked. Gilbert played its fourth game in a week and has essentially survived with three pitchers.
Chaparral made it a bit easier for its relief corps to pitch Saturday after starter Andrew Shaps was chased with two outs in the first inning after getting hit hard by Gilbert. The Firebirds bounced back in their half of the first and did Gilbert one better plating five runs to regain the lead.
Gilbert starter Zack Meyer allowed three hits, three walks and uncorked a wild pitch that added up to Chaparral's five-run response. The inning was capped by Kyle Palmer's two-run triple. Gllbert coach Matt Gutierrez needed innings out of Meyer and forturnately Meyer responded positively for a few innings before Chaparral took control.
Gilbert tied the game at 5 quickly in the second with a single by Matt Keppler and an RBI double from Kevin Gonzalez. That finished reliever Diego Yanez and introduced Kirkby to the contest. Kirkby completely neutralized Gilbert in his five innings. He retired six in a row and 9 of 10 in his first three innings. Meanwhile Meyer settled in for Gilbert after the rough first inning and kept it even until the fourth.
Chaparral took the lead for good with Palmer scoring the go-ahead run on Shaps single to left in the fourth. Palmer reached on a hit by pitch. The Firebirds tacked on three more runs in the fifth — two on a double by Nick Guaragna and the other on Colter Kilgour's double. Tanner Bollig made it 10-5 in the sixth with his second double of the game.
Collin Gabel pitched the seventh for Chaparral and gave up two hits, but a double-play grounder ended the game.