Party crashers pumped for high school baseball region tournaments

Sometimes the high school baseball playoffs seem like that party for the cool kids, with only certain teams lucky enough to receive invitations.

But this spring, there are some party crashers.

Desert Oasis, Liberty and Shadow Ridge will be making their first postseason baseball appearances when the Sunrise and Sunset Region tournaments begin today at host sites.

"Any time you get new blood in the playoffs it's good," Desert Oasis coach Mike Besser said. "Especially if they've earned it."

Besser's Diamondbacks certainly seem to have earned their spot. Not only has Desert Oasis won 18 games this season, but the team's losses are nearly as impressive.

The Diamondbacks have lost one-run games to Sierra Vista, Bishop Gorman, Rancho and Green Valley -- the top four teams in the final area coaches poll.

"We've played a lot of great teams real good, and that's the caliber of the teams we're going to play in the playoffs, so we have a chance," Desert Oasis senior Zane Killebrew said. "It gives us a whole bunch of confidence knowing that we can come out and compete with anyone."

Desert Oasis has played in 10 games decided by one or two runs, and Besser thinks those close games can only help the team in the postseason.

"Even if you drop a one-run game and you're doing things right, the little things, it's going to carry over," Besser said. "Our guys aren't afraid to compete with anyone. These guys know they're going to push through and win a few."

Now that the newcomers have made it to the party, the biggest challenge might be refocusing on winning and not celebrating just making it to the postseason.

"Our goal all year was to get our foot in the door," Liberty coach Nick Didier said.

"Now that we're here, I know they'll be a little nervous. I think the nerves will be thrown out the window once that first pitch is thrown."

Besser thinks his club can be a dangerous one in the postseason, especially if top pitchers Killebrew and sophomore Mike Maiello can give the team quality outings.

Maiello (4-1, 2.58 ERA) has been dominant, striking out 63 in 38 innings. Killebrew (6-3, 3.20) thrives on throwing strikes and letting his defense work.

"I like our chances any time those two guys are on the bump," Besser said. "They're a little bit different pitchers. Mike's going to overpower some guys at this level. Zane, he's going to pitch to contact."

Now that they've made the postseason, Desert Oasis, Liberty and Shadow Ridge will try to sneak up on some of the more prominent teams.

"We were the underdog this year and everyone underestimated us," Killebrew said. "I think we could surprise a lot of people."

Contact Prep Sports Editor Damon Seiters at or 702-380-4587.