Familiarity pays off in Corona del Sol baseball upset of Hamilton
Many times in the postseason, teams will match up against opponents they don’t know very well at all.
It’s happening for Corona del Sol baseball when it plays Phoenix St. Mary’s in the second round of the Division I state tournament on Tuesday.
The Aztecs’ opening round opponent, though, was no stranger.
The Corona del Sol and Hamilton players have faced off several times in high school, and many have played with and against each other growing up. The Aztecs sneaked into the tournament as the No. 24 seed, but were elated to play the ninth-seeded Huskies – the preseason No. 1 team – in the first round.
“It’s a friendly rivalry and a not-so-friendly rivalry at times,” Corona del Sol coach Dave Webb said. “They really wanted to play Hamilton again.”
The Huskies won both regular season meetings this year, and went 3-1 against Corona del Sol last year, including a 9-1 playoff victory.
Corona del Sol returned the favor on Saturday with a 6-5 upset victory. Webb said the familiarity was a big help. He knew the Hamilton offense liked to hit home runs, so he told his pitchers to stay on the outside part of the plate for the whole game.
Webb said no ground balls were hit to the left side of the infield all game, and the Huskies popped several balls up while trying to pull them.
“We were meticulous in our planning on Friday,” he said. “It definitely helped that we’d seen them because we didn’t have to rely on another coach. We knew exactly what we wanted to do.”
Corona del Sol is now one victory away from making the state quarterfinals. The team needed to go 3-0 down the stretch just to have a shot at the postseason, but still thought it would miss out when the field was announced.
“Most of our kids were seriously in the mindset that we weren’t making it,” Webb said.
The Aztecs practiced last Thursday and placed a computer with the live selection feed in the dugout. They were in the middle of practice when news finally broke that they were in.
“It popped up, we cheered,” Webb said. “We have been playing really well the last couple weeks, so there was a lot of disappointment that we were still sitting outside (the top-24). To feel like they weren’t going to make it in, and (then seeing the announcement), they were elated.”