What a difference a year can make.
Desert Vista High School‘s title victory in the Bob Everett Baseball Classic and Hamilton High‘s repeat championship in the Desert Mountain Softball Invitational were fun to watch, if you like a lot of scoring, but were a far cry from the drama of last year.
Last year, Queen Creek High School won the Bob Everett Classic, now in its third year, by squeezing out a one-run victory to defeat Campo Verde High for the title. The Bulldogs had to use four pitchers to post the 7-6 win over Campo, which was undefeated coming into the tourney.
This year, Desert Vista took just six innings to put away Williams Field High School, exploding in the sixth inning for six runs to put the finishing touches on this year’s title.
Tyler Magin, a right-handed junior who has pitched just 13 innings so far this season, had little trouble notching this 10-0 win. He struck out four batters and allowed just two hits to lead the Thunder to their 10th win of the season and cap off seven straight tournament victories.
He got a lot of help at the plate, as the Thunder piled up 10 hits, led by Zach Paquette‘s three-hit performance. Paquette, a senior who is batting .378, had a pair of RBIs, as did Dylan Cuenca and Jax Chapman.
Both the Bob Everett, played at Highland High School in Gilbert, and the Desert Mountain Invite in Scottsdale help coaches make a good evaluation of where their teams stand with five weeks left in the regular season. By now, teams have settled into their pitching rotations and made the necessary adjustments on the field as they take aim at the playoffs.
An added benefit from both tournaments is being able to get lots of playing time deep into the rosters. The Everett runs five days and the Desert Mountain takes four days to complete.
And Hamilton High, which has a roster loaded with college scholarship offers, put those days to good use, rolling through the seven games of the Desert Mountain tourney and sending a clear message that the Huskies should be a favorite to win their third consecutive state championship.
This title win in the 20-team tournament was also a second straight for the Huskies, and their opponent was a team they knew very well. Pinnacle High School was the team Hamilton had to beat the last two years to win their consecutive big-school state titles, and also the team they beat last year in the Desert Mountain title game.
That tournament title game last year was entirely different from what happened over the weekend. That game wasn’t decided until the seventh inning, when an infield error allowed a Hamilton run – the only score of the game.
But this year, the Huskies unloaded early and often, plating three runs in the first and then 15 more through the next two innings to coast to a 19-0 victory.
The Pioneers were playing without their top two pitchers and were unable to find a way to contain the Huskies’ hitters, particularly catcher Macy Simmons, who went 4-for-4 in that game and 15-for-24 for the tourney. The junior, who leads the team with a .574 batting average for the season, parked five home runs and brought home 22 runs during the four days.
If Pinnacle had its top pitchers, Marissa Schuld (injury earlier in the tourney) and Morgan Smith (unavailable for the tourney), it likely would have made a difference. The Pioneers were undefeated coming into the title game behind Schuld, last year’s Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year.
But, to be fair, Hamilton had feasted on every team it played in the tournament, scoring 81 runs over seven games. They shut out Cactus High, 12-0, to get to the final game, and stomped on Highland High in the game before that, 15-2.
Pinnacle would also have had to find an answer for Ali Ashner, who pounded out five RBIs and went 3-for-5 in the title game, and Lorena Vasquez-Inzunza, who was 2-for-4 with four RBIs.
The loss just extends Pinnacle’s frustration in this tournament. The Pioneers have made it into the championship game the last three years, only to come up dry each time.
It’s a shame that both teams weren’t at full strength for this tournament match-up. They have met just one other time this season, on March 2 when Hamilton was ranked the No. 1 team in the country, according to the MaxPreps Excellent Preseason Top 50. And Pinnacle was No. 2.
Hamilton won that game, 12-8, so Pinnacle would have welcomed another chance — but with Schuld and Smith in the circle.
However, there may yet be another chance for Pinnacle if the two teams meet again, as they did last year, in the state title game.
But it’s hard to see any team keeping the locked-and-loaded Huskies from their third straight title.