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Cibola prepped and ready for Millennium
Going into its fourth-round state playoff matchup against Goodyear-Millennium, the Cibola baseball team won't exactly be blind. Coach Duane Evans has made quite a few friends throughout the Arizona prep scene during his 20 years on the bench, so he has plenty of eyes and ears in the Phoenix area.
Evans also got a scouting report from Gila Ridge coach Greg Osowski, even though Cibola finished the Hawks' season on Thursday with a 3-0 win. When the No. 13-seeded Raiders take on No. 8 Millennium at 4 p.m. today in an elimination game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, they expect to see a talented offensive team.
“(Osowski) helped me out, we talked a little bit,” Evans said. “I hear they're very quick team with a lot of overall team speed. And they have some guys with some pop in their bat.”
Osowski took the helm of Gila Ridge's baseball program when the school opened in the fall of 2007, but served as Evans' assistant at Cibola for nearly a decade before then. Gila Ridge defeated Millennium 8-3 on April 30 in the first round of the postseason, so he knows what its takes to win.
Despite finishing third in the Gila Valley Region standings, Cibola (17-10) now stands alone as the only local team in the 5A state playoffs.
“We lost the region championship and it was ours,” senior center fielder Miguel Corral said. “But now it feels even better that we're the last team in it. It actually feels good that we took out the two teams that took away the championship from us.”
Since losing its first-round contest 10-4 to No. 4 Phoenix-Pinnacle, Cibola has ended the seasons of Yuma High and Gila Ridge. Both players and coach alike say they feel like the Raiders are playing their best ball of the year. Following a 14-2 loss to Yuma High on April 26, the Raiders have been playing inspired.
“We had a little talk and we just tried to re-focus and put something together,” Evans said. “Our philosophy here at Cibola is you want to be playing your best ball at the end of the year. At that point, I didn't feel we were there and that we needed to change some things as far as mentally.”
On paper, Millennium's top two hitters appear to be Tyler Booth and Tatum Hendrix, who are tied for the team lead with eight home runs. Booth leads the team with his 41 RBIs and 16 steals while Hendrix is tops on Millennium with a .495 average.
While Evans said he will pick his starter near game time, Millennium (22-9) will likely start Austin Hoffman, a 6-foot-5 inch righty with a 9-0 record and 2.20 ERA in 12 appearances (nine starts) this year.
All season long, Evans has relied on his core of five seniors: Corral, Tyler Parmenter, Krysthian Leal, Jose Castillo, Jacob Flores. At this point, the Cibola seniors are playing to keep their careers alive.
“It's really special,” Parmenter said. “This is what we wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the year. Last year, we got bumped out after two games, but this year we're starting to make a little run out of it and hopefully we can continue.”