Week-long tourneys test AZ prep baseball, softball teams

Get as many hits as you want, but it eventually comes down to pitching – particularly in tournament play.  And that’s how it played out in this week’s big high school baseball and softball tournaments that wrapped up over the weekend.

But the Hamilton High baseball team and Mountain View High School softball team took different pitching approaches to their championship wins.

Hamilton High’s baseball team resorted to using a pitcher it had to bring up from the JV for the final game to win the Big League Dugout National Invitational Tournament by beating Mountain Pointe High School, 8-6.

The Huskies, who were running out of throwers as the week-long tournament drew to a conclusion Friday, turned the ball over to Kent Hasler, a sophomore who stepped into his first-ever varsity game.  He was still on the JV roster earlier in the day.

Hasler was called to the mound after Hamilton’s starter, Tyler Erwin, was forced to the sidelines with a shoulder issue.  Hasler pitched 4 2/3 innings and then turned it over to Cody Lawson to close.  Lawson was later named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.

The tournament, which is hosted by Scottsdale’s Horizon High School, includes many of Arizona’s best high school baseball teams, as well as entries from some of the top teams in Colorado and California.

This year, the championship game turned out to be a rubber match between the tournament’s final two teams, since Hamilton (Chandler) and Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) had faced each other twice this season, with each winning one.

The Huskies started big in the final game, using doubles by Cody Bellinger, Mitch Nay, and Parker Gallegos to mount a 3-0 lead after their first-inning at-bats.  Trent Goodrich added a couple more Hamilton runs in the fourth inning when the senior shortstop tripled with two runners on base.

Bellinger was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Nay, who had three home runs during the tourney and finished 2-for-2 in the title game, got Top Offensive Player honors.

Brantley Bell contributed a pair of RBIs in The Pride’s losing effort, finishing the championship game 2-for-4 at the plate.

Meanwhile…a little farther north in Scottsdale, the Mountain View High School softball team was preparing to play three games on Saturday to earn its first-ever title in the Desert Mountain Invitational, considered by most to be the best of the regular-season softball tournaments.

The Toros beat Paradise Valley High School, 7-0, in the championship game of the huge event that has been staged for 15 years now, drawing 25 of the best teams from Division I and Division II to the 2012 edition.  Like the Big League Dugout, it takes all week to play out.

But Mesa’s Mountain View didn’t have any trouble finding enough pitchers to fill the innings of those three games Saturday.  The Toros rode the arm of Val Kaff all the way and Kaff delivered, winning the title by posting 13 strikeouts – and then helping her effort at the plate as well.

The junior made sure the Toros got on the board first, stroking a home run to left field in the first inning to bring in the lead-off hitter, Aly Ramsaier, from third and give her team a 2-0 lead, which held for the rest of the way.

Savannah Kirkpatrick contributed another homer, this one well over the center-field fence in the fourth inning, to score two more runs.

The tournament title in this event, which is the last big softball tournament of the regular season, isn’t won easily.  There have been 13 different teams to leave with a championship trophy.

Both Mountain View, a Division I team, and D-II Paradise Valley had to beat tournament favorites to advance to the final game.  The Toros knocked off Basha High School in Chandler and PV upset Mesa’s Red Mountain High.  Both were come-from-behind wins.

For her efforts, Kaff was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.