A little confidence is a dangerous thing, especially when it’s coming from a supremely talented group.
It allows a team to overcome adverse situations and fire back. Basic’s baseball team rode a wave of confidence — and some dominant performances on the mound and at the plate — all the way to Class 5A state championship.
“To be in an environment like our dugout, where if you have a bad at-bat or make an error, you have the whole team swarming around you and saying, ‘it’s all right, we need you,’ it’s hard to pout,” Basic center fielder Mason Neville said. The energy in that dugout was electric. An opponent could put up five, and it would be, ‘so what, let’s put up five.’ Then we’d go out and do it.”
The Wolves scuffled at times during the season, but they always told coach Scott Baker they would “flip the switch.” Baker wasn’t so sure, but his veteran group that included 17 seniors lived up to their word, beating powerhouse Gorman four times along the way to claim the title.
That resiliency and their high level of play throughout the playoffs earned the Wolves the nod as the Nevada Preps All-Southern Nevada Team of the Year.
“I think we were just figuring things out, and it was a whole culmination of things that came together at the end,” Baker said. “This team was battle-tested with the two national tournaments we went to. We were fortunate in that we played our best at the end of the year, when it matters most.”
It’s easy to look back now and think it was an easy run for the Wolves through the playoffs, but that wasn’t the case.
They had to come up with a walk-off hit to beat a pesky Desert Oasis team 3-2 to open the Class 5A Southern Region tournament and lost to Gorman 9-5 two games later. That put the Wolves in an elimination game against Palo Verde, which they won 8-3 and guaranteed a state tournament berth.
The next day, they went to Gorman and edged the Gaels 5-3 behind a strong pitching performance from ace Ben Smith, then dominated the Gaels 12-4 in the second game to claim the regional title.
“It lit a fire (under us),” Basic infielder Chase Ditmar said of facing elimination. “There was no room for error, but that’s what you play for. You play for the big moments. We worked as a team throughout the year to get it done.”
In the state tournament opener against Bishop Manogue, the Wolves again found themselves trailing. They allowed six runs in the fourth inning and trailed by three, but they were just waiting for the explosion.
It came in the sixth, when they put up nine runs, led by two home runs in the frame and three for the day from Neville en route to a 14-7 win. Neville was responsible for plenty of fireworks in the playoffs with a .467 average, seven home runs, three doubles and 17 RBIs.
“We talk about needing guys to step up, and that’s about as special as it gets right there,” Baker said of Neville’s playoff performance.
The Wolves cruised past Gorman 10-4 the next day, then rallied for a 16-7 win over a depleted Gael pitching staff and the state championship at Las Vegas Ballpark.
As the outs wound down, the Wolves began to think less about the game itself and more about what each teammate meant to them.
“We were up by a lot, so it wasn’t super intense,” Ditmar said. “I shed a few tears when it was over at third base. That experience, the grind, sweat, tears and everything that goes into high school baseball, people don’t see that.
“They see the championships, but that’s not what it’s about. It was emotional thinking about all the relationships I have with my teammates.”
When the final out was made, all that was left to do was dogpile in celebration of a hard-earned championship.
Neville was late to the party, so he could only jump on top, but he has a picture of that moment he said he’ll treasure forever.
“It was awesome, but it stinks because center field is so far away,” Neville said. “The pitcher and catcher are on the bottom and then maybe the infielders. I’m running in from 380 feet away, and I’m the last one in, so I just dove on top of everybody. It was a great moment.”
The Review-Journal will announce its year-end awards throughout the week.
Tuesday: Girls Athlete of the Year
Wednesday: Boys Athlete of the Year
Thursday: Coach of the Year
Friday: Game of the Year
Saturday: Team of the Year