Will this be the year someone else gets to play for the 6A state softball championship?
Maybe. But don’t count on it.
Hamilton High School and Pinnacle High have made the 6A state championship game their own little party for the past three years. It has become a rather exclusive event, with the two teams meeting in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 title games. The Pioneers from Phoenix won the title last year, but Chandler’s Hamilton collected the hardware with back-to-back title wins the previous two seasons.
Odds are they will both find their way back to the party once again this season, making it four years in a row. This time, Pinnacle is the No. 1 seed going into the state tournament and Hamilton is seeded No. 2. That’s a reversal of the way it was last season when Hamilton was the top seed and Pinnacle was No. 2.
This has actually been somewhat of a down season for Hamilton, by its standards. The Huskies finished the regular season 22-8, which most programs would be thrilled to claim. But Hamilton posted 33 wins last year and 30 the year before.
On the plus side, the Huskies won 10 of their last 11 games and will enter the playoffs with momentum, coming off a six-game win streak to close out the regular season. Hamilton (22-8) was on an offensive roll as the season wrapped, outscoring their final two opponents, 22-3.
But Pinnacle, too, was making its case to justify a No. 1 seed this year. The Pioneers (21-3 )have a full head of steam coming into the state tourney after winning 11 of their last 12 games. A 3-0 loss to Chaparral High on April 12 provided a wake-up call and the Pioneers responded by beating Chaparral in the next game and going on to outscore their final five opponents, 48-10.
Both teams have been tested this season. They have the top average opponent ratings (AOR) among the top-10 seeded teams. Hamilton’s schedule was rated most difficult, giving them an AOR of 7.0483, and Pinnacle ranked second in that category with an AOR of 5.0278.
And head-to-head competition doesn’t provide much help in picking a favorite for this year’s crown. Pinnacle won the first of two match-ups this season, beating the Huskies 3-2 in the third game on the schedule. Hamilton took the re-match in mid-March, blanking the Pioneers, 3-0.
So, on paper at least, the two teams appear to be evenly matched. Should they both navigate through the earlier games in the tourney and reach the finals, fans should be able to look forward to an exciting championship game.
Unfortunately, it will still be just a summer re-run that the same two teams keep reviving.
It’s time for another team to crash the party. But this year may not be the year since so few teams have been able to take down either team during the regular season.
No. 15 Tolleson High will get its chance to take out Pinnacle in tomorrow’s first-round game at Pinnacle. Hamilton will host No. 15 Desert Ridge High School.