It was almost exactly a year ago that Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.) captured the Arizona state championship behind the pitching of Cole Bellinger. Fast forward one year and the headline reads the same, just against a different opponent this time around.
The Huskies captured their third division 6A crown in four years by defeating Pinnacle High (Phoenix) in a 6-4 thriller at Tempe Diablo Stadium, with the senior righthander going the first 6.2 innings for the win.
Neither team in the final game was seeded high in the 16-team division, with Hamilton ranking at No. 10 and Pinnacle, led by Arizona State commit and No. 180 MLB Draft Prospect Jake Holmes, coming into the tournament as the eight seed. Hamilton went undefeated, knocking off Tucson, Horizon, Perry and Horizon again to make it to the final game. Pinnacle squeaked by Sandra Day O'Connor and upset top seed Basha before losing to Corona del Sol, who the Pioneers then had to beat two times to get to the championship game.
Pinnacle took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Jacob Ferguson stroked an opposite-field triple down the right field line to drive in the Pioneers' first run. Ferguson then scored on a groundout by Patrick Donovan. Hamilton came back with three runs off Pioneer starter Jason Nelson in the top of the third, aided by a throwing error by Pinnacle second baseman James Wicker that allowed two runs to score. Huskies sophomore and Oregon State commit J.D. McLaughlin drove in the third run with a bad-hop grounder over the first baseman's glove, giving Hamilton a 4-2 lead that it wouldn't relinquish.
The Huskies added a pair of runs in the top half of the sixth before Pinnacle rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning, the biggest hit coming on a double to left-center from junior first baseman C.J. Schauwecker, a Grand Canyon commit.
After the heart of the Hamilton lineup was retired in order by Pinnacle reliever Tyler Woessner, the Pioneers threatened in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff single from Eddie Niemann. After retiring the next two hitters, Bellinger swapped positions with shortstop and ASU commit Drew Swift. Schauwecker singled, advancing the runner to second, but then Swift fanned Chad Sutton on a 3-2 count to seal the victory.
Bellinger, a Grand Canyon commit, wasn't at his best, scattering eight hits and yielding four runs, but got the big outs when needed. The son of former big leaguer Clay and brother of current Dodgers rookie Cody used a fastball sitting 86-89 mph along with an effective curveball and changeup.
Regarding the changeup, Bellinger said, "I usually don't throw it very often in games, but tonight it felt good so that was one of my main pitches."
It's been quite a month for the Bellinger family, with Cody faring well in his first month in the big leagues. His success just gives younger brother Cole some extra motivation.
"Watching him and seeing what he's doing is awesome," Bellinger said. "That's obviously one of my dreams as a little kid."
Also Tuesday, Kellis High (Glendale, Ariz.) topped Campo Verde (Gilbert, Ariz.) 10-5 in the first game of the twinbill to take home the division 5A state championship.