Hamilton's Cole Bellinger got to show one last time what the Huskies were missing for a month midway through this season.
Bellinger's bat at times -- and for the third time in this postseason his pitching -- were critical in helping 10th seed Hamilton go back to back and defeat No. 8 Pinnacle, 6-4, to claim the 6A baseball championship at Diablo Stadium. Bellinger was the winning pitcher in last year's title game triumph over Mountain Ridge as well.
Hamilton's title is its sixth in eight championship-game appearances in almost 20 years of existence. under coach Mike Woods. The other title years are 2003, 2004, 2008, 2014 and 2016. The Huskies were runners-up in 2009 and 2011. Hamilton finished up 23-10 while Pinnacle, playing in its first-ever baseball final with veteran coach Roy Muller at the helm the last two years, wound up 26-9.
"I'm happy for our kids we won," Woods said. "I'm sorry it had to end this way for them. Roy is a good person and a mentor. Our first game ever was against him when he was at Paradise Valley."
Bellinger a senior, missed about a month of the season due to injury from mid-March to mid-April. He got his feet under him after a couple games and was ready and raring once postseason arrived on April 26.
"When he came back it changed our season," Woods said. "We've been better since he came back. He's the stopper we needed."
Hamilton didn't enjoy a huge offensive night, but an error and a pair of bad-hop base hits combined for most of the Huskies six runs. Michael Brueser, Hayden Baker and JD McLaughlin had the only RBI for the game for the Huskies. Two runs scofred on a throwing error and the other via a wild pitch.
Bellinger worked around a couple of two-run innings The otjher four he allowed just a walk. He gutted out 6 2/3 innings. and gave up five of the eight hits he allowed in the final two innings.
Woods was set to take him out to start the seventh, but Bellinger talked his way into facing a couple hitters before the pitch limit finished his night.
Bellinger surrendered a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Eddie Niemann to begin the last of the seventh with the 6-4 lead He rthen etired Jake Holmes a fly out to right and fanned Devin Bonadeo when the pitch count nixed him.
On came closer Drew Swift. Swift was greeted with an 0-2 single to left by CJ Schauwecker putting the tying runs on base. Cleanup hitter Chad Sutton worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2, but struck out swinging to give Hamilton its second spring title in as many days.
"Coach knew I didn't want to come out," Bellinger said. "It really sucked having to sit on the bench not able to play. i was more than ready to get going when the time came."
Pinnacle starter Jason Nelson pitched very well in taking the loss. He worked five innings, allowed five hits, walke three and struck out nine. The third inning bit Nelson with an error and bad-hop hit doing all the damage.
Pinnacle cranked out nine hits -- two and an RBI from Schauwecker, two hits from James Wicker, one hit and two RBI from Patrick Donovan and a hit and RBI from Jacob Ferguson.
"Getting here (championship) was the hard part," Muller, who will decide later this summer whether or not he will come back for another year, said. "This was not about me. I've been blessed to be a part of baseball in Arizona for four decades. The game went down to the wire. We went down fighting."