Brantley Bell has been around a couple of championship celebrations, but he wants one more in a Mountain Pointe uniform before heading to the next stage of his career.
The Mountain Pointe senior second baseman is the most prominent player remaining from the 2011 state title team and he was also in the clubhouse at Chase Field for most of the game when his dad, Jay, and the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series.
“I remember a little bit about the World Series, it was so loud and my mom brought me up to (the stands) for the ninth inning,” said Bell, who was about 6 years old at the time. “When they scored that run everyone went nuts and talked about it for days to come, but I remember every part of that state title. It’s an unreal feeling that I want to share with this team.
“We have the talent and make up to do it. It’s right there for us to get and when we play the game right and don’t have any let ups we can beat anyone.”
Mountain Pointe and 23 other teams, including Desert Vista, will get the chance to prove it starting Saturday when the Division I state tournament gets underway.
The brackets weren’t released before deadline, but both area teams are definitely in the field.
The Pride was expected to finish between No. 13 and No. 15 and as long as they fall in the top 16 they will host a game on Saturday at 1 p.m. and then a first-round win would mean facing a better seeded team, which is coming off a bye, on the road on Tuesday.
Desert Vista was going to fall in the No. 18 to 21 range and have to open the postseason on the road. The Thunder lost to Westwood late Wednesday night, but they should still be in the field.
However it shakes out, both coaches have guided their respective programs through tournament to be the one team that gets to hoist the trophy at the end of the year.
“We have a good team, and there are probably some better ones out there, but when you have a good one that has confidence you have a chance to beat anyone,” Thunder coach Stan Luketich said. “That’s the great thing about the tournament, once you are in, and the momentum builds anything can happen.”
The Thunder, who finished 12-6 in power ranking games, come in on a three-game win streak that ended a stretch of five loses in six games.
“What I like about this team is that when we were losing we were working just as hard as when we won a bunch of games a month before that,” Luketich said. “They have the character and work ethic it takes to be successful.”
The offense has four players hitting over .365 (with at least 50 at bats) in Austin Hicks (.381), Cullen Bottock (.381), Garrison Schwartz (.375) and Colby Woodmansee (.365) with Aaron Modi (22 RBIs) and Woodmansee (33 RBIs) coming up with some run-producing hits.
The pitching is led by Tyler Viza (4-3, 1.69 ERA), Sean McGuire (4-3, 2.75 ERA) and Diego Leal (3-1, 2.49 ERA).
Mountain Pointe, which went 13-5 in power rankings games, enters the postseason with a little more rest after having its regular season end on Monday with the Pride’s fifth straight win. They played an intrasquad game on Thursday to stay sharp and coach Brandon Buck was fine with the downtime.
“I have no control over it so whatever they give is what we got and we will go do what we do,” he said. “We are set up well because we don’t have to throw one of our top pitchers late in the week. We have four days off, we’ll practice hard.”
The Pride is entering the double-elimination tournament with the basic principal of getting one out at a time. They have it figured it is going to 105 outs to make it to the title game.
“Just because it is the postseason play doesn’t mean the game changes,” Buck said. “When teams think the game changes they put themselves at a disadvantage. When you make the routine plays you are a very difficult team to beat regardless of your talent level.
“It sounds cliche, but if hit it, throw it and catch it you are going to set yourself up pretty good.”
The Pride will go with left-handed ace Zach Cordova as the starter in the opener and he will be backed by Bryce Redaja, Cole Tucker. Michael Weaver, Jorge Carrazco, Jake Alexander and Bell among others.
It’s been a good year with some younger players contributing throughout the year, but they feel like the season is far from ending.
“It’s been awesome to watch everyone mature,” said Bell, who will attend Ole Miss if he doesn’t get drafted high in June. “This team has a lot of talent and they really matured from sophomore to junior years. Next year they are going to be even better, but we feel we can get it done now.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.