On their home field on May 16, the Gilbert Indians captured the 2012 Class 2A baseball championship.
The Indians (30-2) posted a 8-3 win at Hanahan in the first game of the best-of-three series, and with pitching from Mike Morrison and Connor Owings, won game two 3-2.
The championship is the Indians’ first since 2008.
In between being recognized by the state legislature and grilling up some celebratory steaks, coach Ashley Burnett spoke with The State about the championship.
What kind of goals did you set for the team at the beginning of the season?
I never put goals. I don’t say we’re going to win the region or win the district because once you set goals, you set limits, too. We tried to just focus on us. If we did what we needed to do, I felt we’d be fine.
How did you motivate the team this season?
We kind of underachieved a bit last year and with those kids coming back it was very important that they rectify the situation. I asked the three seniors from last year to write a letter to the team, about what it felt like to lose that last game and we pulled those letters out a few times this season. We had almost everybody back from that team, so everyone knew what they were getting into to begin with. They were all pretty self-motivated.
Whoas there anyone who really stepped up or distinguished themselves as a team leaders this season?
It was really all of them. They each in their own way, at different points in time stepped up and did what was needed. Connor Owings, well the Owings legacy continues with what he did. Jared Williams, our sophomore shortstop, had only six errors on the year. And Collins Shirley. I can go down the list, they all carried their weight.
As coach, what did you feel you needed to do to help your team be successful?
My job was to make it to where the practices were so hard that there was no pressure in the game. The games were fun time. When you know clearly what you are capable of, you don’t have to worry about winning and losing.
Which moments from the postseason stand out in your memory?
Obviously, throughout all of them, the pitching was outstanding. We had timely hitting. One huge moment was in the district finals when Blake Shirley came in to relieve Mike Morrison and threw three closeout innings and then made a game-winning hit. Then in the state championship, what can you say about Collins Shirley, who hits a grand slam to give us the lead?
What do you hope your team learned or proved this season?
If you do buy in that the team is more important than you, then you will always be successful.
How did it feel to celebrate the state championship win on your home field?
It’s awful to say, but really it was a relief. I wanted it so much for these guys because they really are a great group of guys. We, by far, are the huggingest group of baseball players.
What’s it been like to see them celebrate and be celebrated?
I’m just happy for them to have this experience. They deserve it because of the kind of young men they are. And because of just their work ethic, their willingness to work, their attention to detail, they are going to have successful lives. Life is pretty tough and it’s not too often you get a chance to have this kind of experience. They are on top of the world right now.
When do you begin to think about the future of your team?
I’ll probably get to that in a few weeks or months. It’s most important right now just for me to enjoy this moment with them and let them know how special they are to me.