Originally published Friday, May 4, 2018 at 06:00a.m.

KINGMAN – The Kingman Academy High School baseball team is well aware of the fact it will face No. 2-seed Willcox today at 6:30 p.m. in the first round of the 2A State Championship. While the No. 15-seeded Tigers are no doubt the underdogs, they’re embracing that role and are poised for an upset win at Goodyear Baseball Complex.

“Baseball is a lot more mental,” said Academy’s Kannon Butler. “The team who plays cleaner usually wins. We play on a lot more level ground as far as the seeds go and we truly believe that. We’re pretty confident in our abilities going into state. Seeding doesn’t matter to us. We’ll see what we can do.”

The Tigers proved what they could do in their regular-season finale by knocking off Parker to win their first 2A West Region title. That victory was great, but Academy doesn’t want that to be the end of their success this season.

“We don’t want to be satisfied with just winning the region,” Academy’s Bradley Hecker said. “We want to go make some noise at state and keep the momentum rolling. This is big – it’s our first opportunity since I’ve been in high school. We don’t want to just get a postseason berth. We want to see if we can win a game or two.”

Hecker will be instrumental in whether the Tigers can pick up a victory as he’ll start on the mound today against a Cowboys team that finished 13-2 overall and 10-2 in the 2A East Region. Willcox has three batters hitting over .400, but the team only has one home run on the year.

Academy also has three batters hitting over .400 led by Donny Tatham’s .471 average with 33 RBIs and two home runs. The Tigers have recently found their stride at the plate and head coach Bill McCord knows that needs to continue today.

“We just have to come out and play our game,” McCord said. “If we come out hitting like we’ve been hitting lately in the last few games – we’re hitting the ball really well – hopefully we can rattle this team.”

That will be a difficult task though, as the Cowboys advanced to last year’s 2A State title game where they lost 9-2 to Phoenix Christian. But the Tigers are keeping a positive attitude and know they have a shot at the upset.

“We’ve played some really solid teams this year,” Tatham said. “We have a good chance. We just have to play our best.”