Corona del Sol has blended in this year with the elite 6A teams. So well in fact they've gone under the radar when it comes to postseason hype.
With the Desert Valley and Premier regions dominating the field, particularly once the field was pared to eight, Corona has held its own and thensome.
Coach Dave Webb's club is on the brink of its first title-game appearance since 2009 when it won the championship over Hamilton. Corona, the No. 5 seed, has always been in the 6A equation in 2017. The Aztecs had to go to the final day of the regular-season to win the Central Region title, but a 23-6 record is more than solid.
Corona, which defeated Chandler 1-0 on a steal of home, Boulder Creek (4-2) with a four-run rally in the bottom of sixth and Pinnacle (10-2) to get where it is today at state, isn't fancy. They win three of every four games. They are unbeaten in their half of the bracket, meaning to reach the final they have two chances to win one.
Pitching has been stellar from Corona's top two starters --both lefties..They are sophomore Daniel Sotelo and senior Brandon Bracy. Sotelo has racked up two wins, including a combined one-hit shutout. Bracy yielded no earned runs in his start. Novis notched the win with 1 2/3 innings of relief.
The two teams trying to overtake Corona in its half of the bracket are No. 8 Pinnacle (23-8) and No. 13 Boulder Creek (19-15). Pinnacle was on a roll until its 10-2 loss to Corona last week with five straight wins. The last two of that streak were 3-2 over SDO and 9-8 over Basha. Boulder Creek won two elimination games on the road (Cibola and San Luis) and survived knocking out top-seed Basha last week, 6-4.
The other unbeaten team in this year's tourney to date is defending champion Hamilton (21-10). The Huskies nearly always nab a seed in the top eight if not the top four. This year they settled at No. 10.
Hamilton's road thus far at state has been pummeling of Tolleson (11-1) and Sunnyside (13-0) in elimination games and two nail-biters -- 4-3 over Horizon and 2-0 over Perry in eight innings.
Making up for lost time due to injury that cost him more than a month of time is senior Cole Bellinger. While older brother, Cody, is raking for the LA Dodgers, Cole has won two playoff games on the mound and delivered a game-winning, two-run double against Perry. In the 4-3 win over Horizon he pitched and touched off the three-run, game-winning rally with an RBI single.
Senior Seth Sas has been every bit as effective on the mound for Hamilton. He's yet to allow a run in his two playoff starts. Hitting hasn't been as strong as expected this year for the Huskies, but with the pitching they've received it hasn't had to be.
Chasing Hamilton in its bracket are Horizon (25-6-1) and Perry (18-12). No. 2 Horizon has relied on pitching and defense for the most part. Horizon's bats were hot in an 11-6 win over Tucson. It scored only five runs in the next two games, but split to stay alive with the most recent game a 2-0 final over Mountain Ridge.
No. 6 Perry has pitched extremely well in the playoffs with a 2-0 win over Kofa, 8-1 triumph over Mountain Ridge and the 2-0 loss in extras to Hamilton. Ty Pohlman and Buddy Brownlee have done their best to keep the Pumas humming.