Hamilton has endured about as tough a run to the title game in baseball than arguably anyone over the years in this 2014 state tournament. The top-seeded Huskies scratched and clawed their way to a fourth straight triumph in the winner's bracket Thursday night, edging No. 2 Chaparral, 3-2, in a Division I game at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Hamilton shoots for its fourth championship next Tuesday (May 20). The Huskies will face either Mesquite or Chaparral for the title that night at 7:30 at Talking Stick Fields. Chaparral and Mesquite meet Saturday (May 17) at 6:30 at Diablo to determine the other title-game berth.
Senior Kent Hasler allowed five hits and pitched out of a seventh-inning jam to earn the victory. He struck out six and walked two. Hasler surrendered a first-inning run and one in the fifth to win his second game of the postseason. Hasler had a match in Chaparral senior Chris Gabel, who gave up just four hits, walked two and fanned 10. Gabel's undoing was the latter half of Hamilton's lineup.
The Huskies No. 7 hitter Nick Brueser, a freshman, figured in both his team's rallies. Brueser singled in the third and scored on Ryan Nolcheff's double to tie the game at 1. Brueser struck again in the fourth with a tie-breaking RBI single that put Hamilton ahead for the good, 2-1. Chandler Reynard's fielder's choice plated Hamilton's other run, which proved to be the decisive one.
“(Brueser's) hit kind of lighted us up,” Hamilton coach Mike Woods said. “He got a first-pitch fastball and ripped it.”
Hamilton's first six hitters went down in order with four of them fanning against Gabel. Its top four were a collective 1-for-12 — a rarity this season.
With Hamilton protecting a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth, Chaparral threatened to tie or more. Andrew Shaps two-out single to center made it 3-2. Chaparral sent its runner on first on the play to third, but Nolcheff delivered a perfect one-hop throw to third to nail the runner and end the inning.
Gabel finished strong retiring the final seven hitters and striking out the last four. Gabel was just another in a string of four starters to test Hamilton's solid-hitting lineup.
“I told our kids we've seen some really good kids in these games,” Woods said. “Gabel had a bulldog mentality. He was great…… I thought Kent Hasler was awesome today, too.”
Hamilton has won its four games scoring a total of 12 runs. They''ve won because they've allowed only five (3-2, 2-1, 4-0 and 3-2 victories).
MESQUITE 6, HORIZON 3: The No. 8 Wildcats snapped a sixth inning tie with a pair of doubles and eliminated the No. 3 Huskies at Diablo Stadium. Mesquite fired the last volley Thursday afternoon and it was double-barreled and lethal. George Valenzuela pitched four innings of shutout relief and Carson Burton and Nick Daley delivered the key sixith-inning hits.
Mesquite, which has come close to winning a state title in baseball but hasn't yet, has one more elimination game to win to advance to the championship game. That game will be Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Diablo Stadium against Chaparral, which lost 3-2 to Hamilton in the winner's bracket game late Thursday.
Valenzuela, a senior right-hander, won for the second time in the tournament in relief of starter Matt Heibult. Heibult was hit hard in the second and third innings. He allowed three runs on four hits in the third and that prompted Mesquite coach Jeff Holland to go to Valenzuela. Valenzuela threw three innings of one-hit, shutout relief against Sandra Day O'Connor in an elimination game last Saturday.
Mesquite built a 3-0 lead off Horizon's Trevor Horn after two innings. A double-play ground out in the first made it 1-0 and RBI doubles by Parker Holland an Burton were the other run-producers.
Horizon rallied on a long, two-run homer to right by Zach Taylor in the third and tied the game on Horn's single three batters later. Mesquite knocked out Horn in the sixth with Burton's RBI double and Daley's double. Nick Guevitz tacked on another run in the seventh giving Valenzuela a nice cushion.