True to their name, the Chaparral High School Firebirds are hot at the plate.
In the 5A Conference, Chaparral ranks fifth in batting average (.337), third in home runs (17) and seventh in hits (205) — as of Friday, April 14 and according to statistics provided by MaxPreps.com — accumulating into one of the hottest-hitting teams in the state with third baseman Jacob Gonzalez pacing the Firebirds and most of the conference.
Statistics from its Thursday, April 13, 16–7 win over Arcadia have not been reported and do not reflect on any statistics mentioned in this story.
These performances have all helped the Firebirds fuel a push to the postseason in the hunt for their first state title since 2012.
To get there, however, Chaparral’s bats will have to carry them past stiff competition, including division rival Arcadia High School, which is on a hitting tear of its own, barely ranking ahead of the Firebirds in several hitting categories.
However, the Firebirds overcame an early 4–0 deficit with 11 runs in the top of the sixth inning to topple the Titans, widening the gap between the two teams to two and a half games in the region standings, according to MaxPreps.com. Chaparral has yet to lose in region play as of Friday, April 14.
Despite these challenges, Chaparral Head Coach Sam Messina is confident in his players, especially at the plate.
“First and foremost, they are very talented young men that are very aggressive at the plate,” he said in an April 11 interview. “Several … are having an unbelievable year. They just go up, hit fastballs and go.”
While Coach Messina’s batting order is littered with solid hitters, Gonzalez — son of former Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Luis Gonzalez — wields the strongest bat for Chaparral as he is working with a .556 batting average (second in 5A), seven homers (first in 5A) and 36 RBIs (first in 5A).
“No moment is too big for him,” Coach Messina said. “He’s been comfortable ever since he’s been up at this level. He understands it and enjoys the moment.”
Gonzalez’ hitting is also bolstered by several other capable hitters including pitcher/outfielder Griffin Hampton, outfielder Gianni Tomasi and outfielder Will Fuening.
Having solid hitters all throughout the order brings a big level of confidence and trust to the team, Gonzalez said.
“We’re down a couple of runs or we’re up a couple of runs, we always have confidence that no matter what the score is, we’re in the game,” he said. “We have guys up and down the order who can lead the yard and guys who can get on base. It’s unbelievable this year the offense we have put together.”
In fact, Gonzalez said him and the other hitters try to better each other with a friendly competition of trying to end the game with the most RBIs or “steaks” as he calls them.
As of Friday, April 15, the Firebirds have just five games until the playoffs start. They can clinch a spot if they win the region.
“We’ve worked all offseason to try and go out there and compete for a state championship,” Gonzalez said. “I think if we keep working hard out here at practices and keep competing hard in the games, we’ll be right where we want to be in the end.”
News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 623-445-2738