Basha baseball makes playoffs, ready to stay awhile
The playoffs are a new event for the Basha baseball team, but they’re not a new feeling.
The Bears officially qualified for the state tournament as the No. 23 seed when the brackets were released on Thursday, and they travel to No. 10 Chaparral for their first-round matchup on Saturday at 11 a.m. It’s the first state tournament appearance for every player on the team and the first berth for Basha in five years.
The first two rounds are single-elimination, which adds to the pressure, but it’s old hat for Basha at this point. The Bears were on the playoff bubble heading into the last week of the season and knew they’d need to beat Gilbert and Highland to qualify. After a pair of wins by a combined 15-0 score, coach Jim Schilling is feeling good about his club.
“I told the kids, we’re already 2-0 in the playoffs,” he said.
Chaparral is the defending champion, but the perennial powerhouse hasn’t been as consistent this season, and while Basha is likely a small underdog, it has the capability to win and advance. If it can pull off the upset, the Bears would play against Goodyear Millennium, a better draw than some of the East Valley powers sitting in the top-8. If Basha can make the quarterfinals, another non-East Valley opponent would await, likely No. 2 seed Tucson.
Even though the Bears are the No. 23 seed and sneaked into the postseason, a win over Chaparral could propel them to a long stay in the playoffs.
“Our kids are confident and ready,” Schilling said. “We’re not just happy to be there. We’re in this to win this.”
As always, star shortstop Jamie Westbrook will be leading the way. He’s hitting .412 this year with 10 homers, 22 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 14 doubles. The Pepperdine commitment finally gets his first taste of the postseason after posting gaudy numbers the past four years.
“I feel happy for him,” Schilling said. “It would have been a shame to see all those stats go to waste. But I’m happy for all the guys on the team. They’ve worked really hard and they deserve this.”
Basha will throw ace Austin Casillas (7-2, 2.51 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched) against Chaparral, which is expected to counter with Dillon Bigcrane-Jackson.