Baseball: As Cienega heads to state playoffs, coach trying to repeat success

2012-04-27T00:00:00Z Baseball: As Cienega heads to state playoffs, coach trying to repeat successDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

One year ago this week, Tony Gabusi, then the head coach at Catalina, was coming off a tough loss to Amphitheater and was nervous his team was going to miss the postseason.

That was the only thing on the veteran coach's mind at the time.

His Trojans then reeled off six straight wins and won the Class 4A-II state title. Turns out, that loss to Amphi was the final defeat Gabusi would ever have at Catalina.

After the season, Gabusi resigned from his post at Catalina and wasn't sure what was next.

"Coaches are year-to-year, no matter what anyone says," Gabusi said. "I was only thinking about the task at hand and getting as far as we could. That's all that was on my mind."

He enjoyed his role at Catalina, but was looking for a school with more resources.

He was in touch with former Cienega coach Todd Welch, and when Welch decided to leave for Pima College as an assistant, Gabusi decided to go for the Cienega opening.

"It's all about the word 'more' with Cienega," Gabusi said. "More great kids. More great parents. More great support. I've had that everywhere I've been, but it's just more at Cienega."

Gabusi has been coaching since he started as a volunteer assistant at Salpointe Catholic in 1981. He has spent time at Tucson, Mountain View and Pima but isn't sure he has ever been happier than he is right now at Cienega.

Now, the challenge is to try to repeat last year's magic. This time with the Bobcats.

Cienega is the No. 16 seed in the Division I state tournament, the state's highest level, and plays Surprise Valley Vista on Saturday at 11 a.m., in the first round of the state tournament.

"We weren't expecting a change, but he's come in here and taught us so much about baseball," Cienega senior Juan Gamez said. "He brought us together, and we're playing as a team, rather than individuals.

"He's always talking about taking a bullet for each other and never putting a teammate down."

The Bobcats have gone 20-9 in Gabusi's first season after a 16-14 campaign last season.

But, just like at Catalina last season, it hasn't always been easy.

The Bobcats broke a four-game losing streak this week with a 1-0 win over Rincon/University. Gabusi's squad also has five one-run losses this season.

"We had a little bit of a bad streak here at the end, and I think we've been trying to do too much," Gamez said. "We've been stressing over everything. We just need to get out there and have some fun."

Gabusi has reminded his Cienega players that his 2011 title with Catalina didn't just happen.

"That championship was three years of process," Gabusi said. "We're learning how to be competitive and learning to be collectively responsible.

"We're getting there."

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