Hamilton sat atop the state’s baseball power rankings all season — the Huskies also have been nationally ranked by publications such as Baseball America and are Max Preps’ No. 1 team in the country — so it was no surprise which team received the No. 1 seed in the Division I state tournament.
The Huskies, though, take nothing for granted.
“Seeding can be overrated,” Hamilton coach Mike Woods said following Thursday’s bracket unveiling. “The ranking means nothing. We’ve been saying that all season. We’re just one of 24 teams now.”
The first round of the 24-team tournament began Saturday. The top eight seeds received a first-round bye and will get started on their championship quest Tuesday.
Top eight seeds from the East Valley are: No. 1 Hamilton, No. 4 Desert Ridge, No. 6 Mountain Pointe and No. 8 Mesquite.
Chaparral is the No. 2 seed and Horizon is No. 3. Both also are ranked nationally.
But the popular belief is this year’s title is open to more than just the top three teams. Woods, who last led Hamilton to the championship in 2008, agrees.
“This year is a little deeper than normal,” Wood said. “There are six to eight teams who could win it.
“I’m usually pretty critical of the bracket and the power points, but this year’s bracket has the integrity it should, I think. It should be a good tournament.”
As Red Mountain goes for a fifth straight state championship, it will do so without the No. 1 seed. But that is nothing new for the Mountain Lions.
Red Mountain was the top seed just once the previous four years. Coach Rich Hamilton’s teams were the second seed in 2010 and 2012 and the sixth seed a year ago.
“It’s not a big deal, as long as we’re in the top eight” said Hamilton, whose Mountain Lions are seeded second this year. “I’m still sure a lot of teams don’t want to play us.”
Gilbert earned the top seed. Other East Valley teams to get a top eight seed and a first-round bye are: No. 4 Mountain Pointe, No. 5 Hamilton and No. 6 Basha.
Gilbert hosted a viewing party Thursday as the bracket was unveiled.
“The girls are really proud of themselves for what they accomplished. It’s a big deal,” Tigers coach Shaundra Gutierrez said. “But we have to stay focused and mentally strong. Getting a bye is nice, but girls know how important that first game is.”
Gilbert was the No. 4 seed last year when it lost its opening game during the single-elimination portion of the tournament. Gutierrez likes her team’s chances this time around.
“Our hitting is really strong right now,” she said “The top of our order has always been strong, but our 5-9 hitters are really contributing right now.”
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