Normally, a home run early in the game is not terribly significant.
This time, Mitch Nay's two blast in the first inning carried Hamilton out to an important early lead, and from there, the Huskies cruised to a 13-1 win over Pinnacle in the first round of the Division I state baseball tournament at Camelback Ranch. The game was halted after five innings due to the 10-run rule.
After Kyle Pechloff reached first on an error with one out in the first ining, Nay delivered a laser over the left field bullpen and a quick 2-0 lead. The Huskies followed with one run in the third and 10 spot in the third to help advance to the winner's bracket.
"Mitch's home run was huge," Hamilton coach Mike Woods said. "This was the first game of the state tournament, the guys were nervous and the home run helped to settle the players down and give them confidence."
For his part, Nay, a 6-3 senior, said he remained cool and collected.
"It was some kind of hanging pitch, and I saw it well," he said. "I just opened up on it and it went. I was looking to drive the ball somewhere, and put a good swing on the pitch."
The early cushion was enough for Huskies' starter Sean Rackoski to be effective. Though the 6-5 junior walked seven and allowed the lone Pioneer run before giving way to right-hander Cody Lawson, Rackoski had enough to keep Pinnacle at arm's length.
"Effectively wild," smiled Woods. "In all honesty, I was very proud of Sean. This was his first state game and he gave us a great effort. I tell all my pitchers that they don't have to be perfect but just make pitches."
For his part, Rackoski allowed only two hits but his wildness helped produce the lone Pioneer run.
Cruising with a 13-0 lead in the fourth, Racoski gave up a one out double to Ryan Sandry and then walked the next two hitters to load the bases.
When the Huskies failed to convert a double play, Sandry scored to break the shutout.
Overall, Rackoski pitched four-plus innings. He allowed only those two hits, one run, walked the seven and fanned two hitters.
With a 3-0 lead in going into the fourth, Hamilton parlayed five hits, three walks, a hit batter and a fielder's choice into a 10-run inning. The key blow was a bases-loaded double from right-fielder Skyler Palermo that created a 6-0 Huskies lead.
Hamilton now takes in Brophy Prep, which defeated Desert Ridge 2-1 in the first game of the Camelback Ranch doubleheader Thursday. The Huskies and Broncos meet Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. In their two previous meetings this season, each won one game.
Pinnacle faces Desert Ridge in the loser's bracket Saturday at, 1:30 p.m. at Camelback Ranch.