The baseball postseason takes a strong belief system.
There are going to be moments — like trailing 10-1 — when doubt can envelop the dugout if there is a crack in the team’s foundation.
Considering how Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe reached the Division I elite eight — setting up Thursday's matchup at Phoenix Municipal at 4 p.m. — it is clear these two programs have the right formula to get through just about any scenario.
“I love these guys and what they mean to each other,” Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich said. “They play for each other and that’s what it takes.”
The Thunder, seeded 22nd, won in the first round by coming back from a nine-run deficit to beat No. 11 Brophy in extra innings and then had to scramble in the second round after losing a lead late before getting past No. 6 Sandra Day O’Connor 4-3 in eight innings.
“Until the last out is recorded nothing is guaranteed,” Luketich said.
That’s where the belief in each other comes to play.
If a team has no doubt the next guy up is going to come through or make a diving stab to prevent the tying run from scoring then it is that much easier to battle back from a deficit or stay positive after coughing up a lead.
Mountain Pointe, the 14th seed, was in a similar predicament in Tuesday’s second round when the Pride trailed 3-1 heading into its final at bat against No. 3 Desert Ridge.
“Before that inning we talked about other games we came back in like Brophy and Gilbert,” Pride coach Brandon Buck said. “We can lean on that experience and it gives them the confidence to get it done again.
“I’ve been talking about it all year. They are an awesome group of kids. No one is playing for themselves. They want this team to win and it shows.”
It worked out just fine against Desert Ridge as the Pride put together a five-run seventh inning that was capped off by a Brantley Bell grand slam in a 6-5 win.
“We’ve faced that adversity before and came back,” Bell said. “When you’ve come through like that before you believe you can overcome anything. We never give up on each.”
The next thing to overcome is the community uprising known as the Ahwatukee Bowl.
Thursday’s matchup is the third meeting between the two rivals after splitting the two previous games.
Regardless of which team wins the double-elimination format takes over from this point, meaning they are guaranteed another game on Saturday.
The players have known and played against, and in some cases with, each other for years.
It gives the game an added twist, but this isn’t just a club ball game or a regular season game. The winner makes the final four of the championship bracket sitting just three wins away from the state title.
“It’s always fun playing them because it is a friendly rivalry,” Bell said. “There’s a mutual respect and we want to beat each other just as bad.”
Coaches tend to down play such things, but a postseason meeting against an opponent that’s just over 4 miles away in a community where “We run ’Tukee” is a common mantra makes it tough.
“It’s one of those things you can’t control,” Buck said. “It worked out so it’s great for them, our boys and Ahwatukee. We are happy to be playing in the final eight of the tournament.”
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