The 5A Division I state baseball tournament usually has a favorite this time of year. A team that has been consistent from start to finish, or perhaps one that has caught fire the last few weeks and latched on to momentum.
If last year was an indicator, both of the above may be true in determining who might emerge as champ come May 16. This is what is known as the tournament opens today with first-round games at eight sites in the Valley, all beginning at 11 a.m.:
A team that is hot coming into state can win. Last year's champ Chandler Hamilton, won its last six regular-season games then proceeded to go 5-0 at state. The Huskies used a huge seventh-inning rally to deny Gilbert Mesquite the title in the championship game.
Speaking of Mesquite, which didn't qualify for state this year, the Wildcats snuck in last year as the No. 15 seed.
Entering the tournament, the Wildcats were 2-4 the final two weeks. Mesquite also won its first four games of the tournament before bowing to Hamilton.
So what can be taken from this if you are Mesa Red Mountain coach Jason Grantham? The Mountain Lions are in a 10-game winning streak. Are they the favorite?
"All I know is that during the streak we've been on, we've been in control of most of those games," Grantham said. "The one or two we weren't, we battled back when we had to."
Gilbert Highland is also playing well. The No. 3 seeded Hawks have won seven of their last eight games and 22-of-29 on the season. They embody what Hamilton was last year, both during the regular season with a solid record and ending the year with wins and momentum.
Ditto Tempe Corona del Sol. The Aztecs won their first 12 games this season. They endured three two-game losing streaks in late March through mid-April, but have won four of their last five.
Other teams playing well entering the tournament are: Tucson High, which had an eight-game losing streak snapped Thursday; Chandler Basha and Scottsdale Desert Mountain, which have won six of their last eight; and Gilbert, which rebounded from a tough loss April 24 to Highland to win all three of its games this week.
Then there's a team like Phoenix Mountain Pointe. The Pride lost eight games in a row prior to winning its final regular-season game Wednesday. That win and Phoenix North Canyon's win over Phoenix Alhambra which pushed Mountain Pointe into postseason, might be just the spark that starts a surprising run.
And remember. This is baseball. Anything can happen on a given day or two-week period.