(Hamilton's baseball team celebrates after winning Tuesday's Division I title game at Salt River. Photo by Jose Garcia/aia365.com)
Hamlilton baseball coach Mike Woods had to sweat out four tournament victories prior to Tuesday night relying on his pitching to come through which it did.
The veteran coach had a little easier time in the Huskies' fifth tournament game thanks to a 12-hit attack and five-run, third inning that turned into an 8-4 victory over Mesquite in the Division I championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Hamilton, which had established itself as the team to beat in most quarters throughout the season, proved itself the last two weeks. Hamilton closed the season 30-3.
The Huskies allowed only nine runs in five playoff games. They scored two-thirds the amount of runs they tallied in their first four games in winning on Tuesday, much to Woods' relief.
The win was the fourth this season by the Huskies over Mesquite (23-12) and Hamilton's fourth baseball championship.
“About time. I've been waiting for this for two weeks,” Woods said of the offensive output. “I knew we'd break out, then again I didn't know if you know what a I mean….
“We had to finish strong to call ourselves the best. We did.”
Hamilton put a run on he board in each of the first two innings while junior Zach Pederson was holding Mesquite in check for the second time in the tournament. Ryan Nolcheff, who had the best night of anyone at the plate going 4-for-4, singled with one out in the first. He scored on a 400-foot double by Austin Filiere.
In the second the lead moved to 2-0 thanks to Blake King's sacrifice fly that brought home Cameron Cruz, who had two doubles and two RBI.
The demoralizer was Hamilton's third inning.
“They picked a good time to start hitting,” Mesquite coach Jeff Holland said. “Putting up that five-spot took the air out of us.”
Down 7-0 after three to a team that had dominated on the mound seemed insurmountable. Mesquite, however, did peck away.
The Wildcats, who lost in their only other championship game appearance (Hamilton in 2008), scored a run in each of the final four innings.
But Hunter Robson, Justin Wylie, Cruz (two-run double) and Chandler Reynard drove in runs in the Hamilton third that chased Mesquite starter Matt Heibult and made the road back too rugged.
Bigger Mesquite rallies were nixed in the fourth and sixth as Hamilton turned double plays in both innings to limit the damage. Pederson, a junior, went five innings. He gave up five hits, a walk and fanned four.
He was 2-0 in postseason. Both wins were over Mesquite.
“This game (championship) is hard,” Woods said. “It's not handed to you. They kept battling. Jeff Holland is one of the best coaches in the state. I care about him and his program.”
Senior Kent Hasler, who pitched the final two innings and won two playoff games, liked the ending to 2014 better than 2013. Hamilton lost in the first round last year.
“Losing always leaves a bitter taste,” Hasler said. “We came back with a vengeance this year.”
Mesquite, which returns four of its infielders and two outfielders next year, was led by Josh Webster (2-for-2). Nick Daley and James Harrington drove in runs for the Wildcats.
(Hamilton brought home its fourth baseball title Tuesday. Photo by Jose Garcia/aia365.com)