As Gilbert baseball coach Ashley Burnett pointed out, “it’s all about the kids,” and Wednesday night at Gilbert, the kids were all right.
The Indians got a strong pitching performance from Mike Morrison to go with solid defense and timely hitting to beat Hanahan, 3-2, and win the Class AA state championship with a two-game sweep in the best two-of-three series.
“It’s exciting for our kids,” Burnett said. “I’m tickled to death. It’s sweet every time.”
It was Gilbert’s third state championship since 2006 and the first since 2008.
“We’ve been battling for four straight years to get this done, and it’s everything we heard it would be,” Morrison said.
Morrison gave the Indians a solid start, pitching 52/3 innings while allowing two runs on two hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
“It was a gutty performance,” Burnett said. “He battled his way through.”
Morrison (9-0) put up solid numbers, but said he wasn’t at his best for the Indians (30-2).
“It’s the greatest feeling of my life,” he said. “I didn’t have my best stuff, but it doesn’t matter. We just won the state championship. I love these guys like brothers.”
Just as in Gilbert’s 8-3 opening-game victory against Hanahan on Monday night, the Indians jumped on top of the Hawks early, but they did it in different fashion.
Collins Shirley’s first-inning grand slam got the Indians started Monday night, but Gilbert went “small ball” to forge a 3-0 lead after three innings in Wednesday’s title-clinching game.
Gilbert got a run in the bottom of the first on Austin LaBounty’s two-out, RBI single and added a run in the second when Drew Moyer was hit by a pitch and then scored when Mitch Spires’ single to right was misplayed for a two-base error.
The Indians moved ahead 3-0 in third when Shirley drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt.
Hanahan broke up Morrison’s no-hitter and his shutout in the fourth inning when Skyler Hunter’s RBI single to right made it 3-1.
The Hawks cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth on Seth Lancaster’s one-out, run-scoring single.
With Lancaster on first and one out, the Indians turned to Conner Owings to close things out.
Owings had to pitch out of trouble in both the eighth and the ninth.
In the ninth, Hanahan had the game-tying run on second with two outs, but Owings got the final batter on strikes to end the game.
Hanahan ends its season 22-11. “We struggled early and they capitalized,” Hanahan coach Brian Mitchell said. “That’s what good teams do. They’re a good team. You can’t spot them runs. But I was proud of our kids. We battled back. I hated to see it come to an end like this, but they’re a heck of a ball club and a class act.”