It’s been a struggle for the Gilbert baseball team this year, as few thought it would be hovering around .500 as the regular season came to a close.
The Tigers, though, showed on Tuesday that they could still be a formidable team once the 5A Division I state tournament rolls around.
Gilbert’s offense was relentless and left-hander Stephen Tarpley shook off a slow start to defeat top-ranked Mesquite 12-6 in Central Region action at Gilbert.
The game was tied at 5 through three and a half innings, but the Tigers (14-11, 6-4) scored seven runs between the fourth and fifth to cruise to the victory.
“This is a big win for us,” Tarpley said. “The team is coming together great right now. We just had fun today. All year we’ve been stressing out and uptight, but this time we just had fun.”
Tarpley allowed three solo home runs in the first two innings, but only one earned run the rest of the way. He also was 3-for-5 with a double, home run and five RBIs at the plate. Tarpley, who is committed to Southern California, tore his meniscus before the season and didn’t return until March 25. This was his third start of the season on the mound.
“It’s good to have him back, that’s for sure,” Gilbert coach Matt Gutierrez said.
Mesquite drops to 22-3 on the year. The Wildcats are 4-2 in their last six games after an 18-1 start.
“Coming down the home stretch, everyone’s going to have to step up,” Mesquite coach Jeff Holland said.
Garrett Jeffries started on the mound and four other relievers came in, but no one could slow down Gilbert. Ty Neenan was 2-for-4 with a home run and Nathaniel Causey added a pair of hits, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Gilbert was tenth in the power point rankings heading into the game, and Gutierrez said his team was treating the final regular season games more like playoff contests.
“We’re not guaranteed anything right now,” Gutierrez said. “We’re battling our butt off to try to just get in.”
Zach Davies led Mesquite by going 3-for-4 with a home run, a triple and two runs scored. Seth Fretheim played despite being sick and finished 2-for-4 with a double, home run and two RBIs.