When the Gilbert Indians begin the Class 3A District 7 tournament on Friday, there is no question how far they can make it.
The Indians (20-2) are ranked seventh in the state in the final regular season coaches poll. But over the next three weeks, they aim to prove they are No. 1.
“We feel like we’re in a place where we can really make a run at it this year, and that’s what we’ve got our mind set on,” said senior infielder Mitch Spires.
“We’re senior-heavy this year, and there’s nothing these 10 guys want more than a ring, and that’s what we’re going to get.”
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Coach Ashley Burnett said those seniors – including Jared Williams and Zach Their – provide leadership and motivation.
“When you have 10 seniors, their expectations are high. And with past history being what it is, they understand what they want to accomplish, and they understand that only comes through hard work,” Burnett said. “And they have. They have paid the price as far as their work ethic.”
Seniors Spires, Trever Frederickson and Jon Myles Newman are the Indians’ leading pitchers, but it is not only the seniors who are putting in work.
“The key for us this season is that we came out here and worked hard and it showed on the field. That’s why we only lost two games this season,” junior outfielder Jaylin Jennings said
The Indians had put together an eight-game winning streak through April – until they ran into South Aiken and dropped a 7-5 decision on April 23. The loss, their second of the season, hardly was a setback.
“We just learned to battle,” Spires said. “We learned that the road is not going to be easy, and if it gets tough we’re going to keep pounding.”
Jennings added, “We learned that teams are not going to come in here and roll over because we’re Gilbert. They’re going to play and fight, so we need to, also.”
Although the Indians have gone through most of the season unranked, they do not see their squad as a postseason dark horse.
“This year, when we put pitching and defense together, we’re pretty unstoppable,” Spires said. “We feel like we can play with anybody. If we come out here and do what we’re supposed to do on the baseball field, we’ll be all right.”