Winning an Arizona Division I state championship is not an uncommon occurrence for Hamilton High School.
The Chandler, Ariz., school has won four titles in the past 14 years and finished second in three other seasons. This year, Hamilton faced a tough opponent in Mountain Ridge High (Glendale, Az.), a team that had knocked them out of the winner's bracket one week earlier in an extra-inning contest.
But when the two national powerhouses squared off for a second time Tuesday, the Huskies were able to easily capture their fifth state crown by first taking advantage of shoddy defense to grab the early lead before really pouring it on late in the game for a 12-3 victory.
Junior righthander Cole Bellinger, son of former big leaguer Clay and brother of current Dodgers prospect Cody, earned the win with four scoreless innings. Working with a three-pitch mix (fastball, curveball and changeup), Bellinger was effective in scattering four hits. His outing ended prematurely when the game was delayed for just over an hour in the top of the fifth inning due to lightning and intermittent rain.
Having faced Mountain Ridge in their previous postseason matchup, Bellinger had the advantage of knowing what to expect from the opposing hitters.
"I knew what to throw," Bellinger said after the game. "I knew what pitches got them out."
Arizona State commit Zane Strand, who went the distance in the Huskies’ win over O'Connor High (Phoenix) just three days earlier, came on after the delay to pitch the final three innings. Working with his low 90s fastball and above-average slider, Strand appeared to tire in the final inning before finally getting the third out.
Hamilton held a 5-0 lead, thanks primarily to four Mountain Ridge errors, when the game was stopped due to lightning. The big blow came when senior Chris Collins, batting in the ninth spot in the Huskies lineup, hit a bases-loaded single up the middle that got past Mountain Ridge center fielder Chase Sandman to clear the bases.
After adding single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, the Huskies broke the game open with five runs in the seventh, highlighted by senior outfielder Jake Desiderio's bases-loaded triple.
"We got contributions up and down the lineup," Hamilton coach Mike Woods said, "we pitched well and we played defense. In the end, that's what it's about."
Greenway High School (Phoenix) defeated Tucson High, 7-4, earlier Tuesday to capture the D-II championship.