Gilbert denied Airport’s bid to wrap up the Region 5-3A baseball championship with a 3-2, extra-inning win on Friday over the Eagles, who have lost two games in a row after opening the season with a school-record run of 19 consecutive wins.
It isn’t time to hit the panic button yet. Airport (19-2, 7-1) still has a two-game lead over both Gilbert and Brookland-Cayce in the pennant race, and can wrap it up with a win on Monday at home against last-place Midland Valley.
But while Gilbert (15-5-1, 5-3) is still a long shot to claim at least a share of the title in its first year in 3A, the big win did give the Indians an advantage in the chase for second place with B-C. The Tribe faces Strom Thurmond and Swansea in their final two conference games next week, while B-C has Swansea and Airport down the stretch.
Friday’s thriller featured a pitching duel of not between Gilbert’s Trever Fredrickson and Airport’s Austin Hawley.
Fredrickson finished with just two strikeouts, but he scattered five Eagle hits over eight full innings and both of Airport’s runs were unearned.
Ryan Knowles scored the decisive run in the eighth inning. Knowles had a one-out single to right field and raced to third on an Airport error on a grounder off the bat of teammate Jared Williams. With Zach Thier at the plate, Williams to raced to second base on defensive indifference. Knowles raced home on Thier’s grounder to shortstop.
Thier’s double in the first inning scored Williams with first run of the game. In the second, Trevor Black reached base on an error and eventually scored on another Eagles boot in the second inning.
Airport countered with a two-run single by Caleb Talton in the top of the third.
Fredrickson was tough when he had to be. Airport put its lead batter on base in the fifth, sixth and seven innings to no avail. Fredrickson retired the last six batters he faced after Taylor Key led off the Airport seventh with a single.