Top-ranked Chandler Basha, No. 2 Phoenix Horizon and No. 3 Glendale Mountain Ridge will have to come out of the loser’s bracket of the 6A Conference state baseball playoffs after losing on Wednesday.
This is nothing new to Basha.
Last year, Basha came into the state tournament as the No. 1 seed, only to lose two in a row once the tournament went into the eight-team, double-elimination format.
Horizon has spent several weeks this season on top of azcentral sports’ Super 10, but ran into a buzz saw on Wednesday to Chandler Hamilton, which is taking the hard route to try to repeat as state champs.
Hamilton faced an elimination “play in” game last week, and run-ruled Tolleson. Then, in another elimination game on Saturday, Hamilton traveled to Tucson and run-ruled Sunnyside.
That set up Wednesday’s showdown at Maryvale Baseball Park that Hamilton won 4-3 against Horizon.
No. 6 Gilbert Perry upset Mountain Ridge 8-1, setting up a 1 vs. 3 elimination game Friday at 4 p.m. at Maryvale Park between Horizon and Mountain Ridge.
Basha faces No. 13 Anthem Boulder Creek at 4 p.m., Friday at Tempe Diablo Stadium in another elimination game, after the Bears lost to No. 8 Phoenix Pinnacle, 9-8. It was the second straight one-run game Pinnacle, and now moves into the winner’s bracket against No. 5 Tempe Corona del Sol on Friday at 6:30 at Diablo.
No. 10 Hamilton faces Perry on Friday at 6:30 at Maryvale Park.
Hamilton and Perry both have double-digit losses. But they’ve proven how much parity there is in 6A.
It also takes healthy pitchers to go deep at state.
Hamilton was without its ace, Cole Bellinger, most of the season because of a hip flexor injury. He returned late in the season. On Wednesday, he went the distance, giving up five hits and two earned runs. He also helped his own cause with an RBI double.
Mountain Ridge went with Tommy Lowe, an All-Arizona pitcher last year, who has struggled to get on the mound this year, battling diabetes and an elbow injury. He pitched three innings, giving up four hits and four earned runs, walking three in the loss to Perry.
Mountain Ridge can come back with its ace, Matthew Liberatore (8-0, 0.79 ERA) on Friday after he threw 108 pitches in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Phoenix Mountain Pointe.
Great quarterfinal battles are in store with No. 8 Phoenix Thunderbird headed to No. 1 Nogales, and No. 2 Tucson Salpointe playing host to No. 7 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows and No. 6 Tempe Marcos de Niza traveling to play No. 4 Tempe Marcos de Niza.
Thunderbird junior Sasha Sneider struck out 10 in the 2-1 win Tuesday against No. 9 Cottonwood Mingus.
Joe Palanzo had a home run and four RBIs in Cactus Shadows’ 14-4 first-round rout of Casa Grande.
Kody Decker drove in three runs for a suddenly surging Sunrise Mountain team in a 12-2 win over Goodyear Estrella Foothills.
Conner Woods pitched six strong innings, striking out 11, for Marcos de Niza in an 8-3 win over Flagstaff. Woods also had two hits and two RBIs. Nick Leach went 4 for 4 for the Padres.
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