As the Tucson Saguaros gear up for the Pecos League Pacific Division finals against the High Desert Yardbirds, there’s only one thing on the players’ mind: defend.
The Saguaros will need to defend their home field, which would keep their quest to defend last season’s championship alive.
How can Tucson do it? The Saguaros are already the top seed in the Pacific after finishing the season 44-14 and winning nine of their final 10 games.
Shortstop Tre Porter is ready to move on to the postseason, which begins with a best-of-three series that starts Thursday night at Kino Stadium.
“It was a long, strenuous season, because we were playing during the hottest part of the year, but from a team perspective and winning, this season as a whole was a lot of fun,” Porter said.
Players weren’t as cheerful last month, when they hit the road for a grueling two-week road trip.
“Being on the road for two weeks is rough, because now everyone is worn down,” relief pitcher Redmond Floyd said.
“Once you get on the road for a long period of time, sometimes it can mess with your composure. We were just fortunate to come back home and finish the regular season on a high note.”
The Saguaros caught a little bit of a break last weekend, when monsoons forced the cancellation of their final regular-season series. That meant rest and relaxation for a team that could use it.
“Monsoon was a blessing in disguise, because we were already tired from our road swing and we were already getting three days off before playoffs started so really we got off for like a week,” Porter said.
“We got our rest and go into playoffs refreshed and ready to go.”
Tucson isn’t just relying on rest. Kino Stadium will provide an advantage for the division’s top seed. High Desert’s stadium in Adelanto, California, has a capacity of 3,808 permanent seats while Kino Stadium holds 8,000.
The field dimensions at Kino are slightly larger than what the Yardbirds are used to.
“At Kino we’re so spoiled, because we get to play on a flat surface at a stadium that is at a professional level as opposed to other teams. From just playing there and understanding where to hit, we feel like we always have the upper edge,” second baseman David Kimbrough said. “Plus, since it’s tough for teams to get their bats going at Kino, it leads to better defense, which lets our offense flow naturally.”
The fans help. With playoff baseball back, it may get uncomfortable for the Yardbirds.
“Every time we play at home, I feel like we’re going to run through everybody,” Floyd said. “During $1 beer night, our fans heckle the other team pretty good.”
Tucson and High Desert played 12 times during the regular season and split the matchups. The previous time the two played, Kimbrough scored from first base in the ninth inning to give the Saguaros a 6-5 win.