CARY, N.C. – After having their bats quieted for the first two days of the National High School Invitational, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) High brought the noise on Friday, defeating Tullahoma (Tenn.) 11-1 in five innings by way of the mercy rule.
The Huskies have relied on their pitching throughout the tournament, and received another complete game victory in their third game, this one from lefty Tyler Erwin, but Hamilton coach Mike Woods was excited to see his team come out swinging.
“I think I said yesterday that we hadn’t hit the ball as well as we can,” Woods said. “Today we broke out a little bit, up and down the lineup a lot of guys contributed. It was a total team effort.”
The Huskies coach took the opportunity to start some of his players that hadn’t seen playing time yet in the tournament, and was impressed with what they were able to do.
“We started a few [different] guys and they actually did really well,” Woods said. “Sean Rackoski [was our designated hitter] today. He hadn’t played in the tournament and I think was 2-for-3 with [one] RBI.
“Hunter Robson was able to get in there and I think I played just about everybody on my roster except a couple just because the game was cut short. What’s nice is you get them in, they produce and perform and I’m happy for them.”
Hamilton top prospect and Oregon commit Cody Bellinger showed what he could do at the plate just one day after tossing a four-hit 10-strikeout complete-game shutout. Bellinger went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, two runs scored and three RBIs.
Erwin looked to garner player of the game honours, however, escaping several early jams and limiting Tullahoma to just one run (unearned) on five hits, walking three and striking out five in his five frames.
“He did a super job,” the Huskies coach said. “He had bases loaded in the first inning and he got out of that. We’ve had three really good pitching performances here and I’m real excited about that. Tyler did a super job and that’s what we needed him to do, against a good-hitting club.”
There were a couple of scary moments in the game for Erwin, with numerous hits coming right back up the middle. The Wildcats top players, brothers Jordan and Justus Sheffield, both hit screaming line drives right back at Erwin, the former narrowly missing his head and deflecting off of Erwin’s glove.
“Tyler is like a cat out there,” Woods said. “It’s amazing. He gets his glove on a lot of balls. One saved a run; I think in the first inning he saved a run and the second one just about took his head off but he’s okay.”
Erwin bounced back quickly from each play, waving his coach away from checking on him at the mound. Woods wasn’t at all surprised by the apparent toughness of his young hurler, since near-misses are old hat for him.
“It sounds strange but for some reason against him, it happens a lot,” Woods said. “He gets comebackers and he gets off the mound, he gets his glove on balls more than anybody. Sometimes more than he should, as a matter of fact.”
While Tullahoma hopes to take their ride home after a victory on Saturday, Hamilton will look for their third win of the tournament without having gone to their bullpen as of yet.
“It was just nice to get a few runs on the board early and get our hits,” Woods said. “I think that’s going to bode well for the next game and carrying on through our season.”