Rohan Lettow was dealing on the mound for the Hamilton Huskies Tuesday night during the 6A baseball championship against Queen Creek.
He walked one batter through four full innings, retiring the rest through strikeouts, grounders or routine fly balls. Hamilton coach Mike Woods visited the mound once, in the seventh inning with Queen Creek trying to make a late push.
But his message was simple: Finish the game.
Two batters later, Lettow and his teammates were celebrating the Huskies’ second straight 6A baseball title with a 3-1 win over Queen Creek.
“I just told him to relax and kind of explained the situation,” Woods said. “We had a two-run lead still and one run doesn’t matter, those kinds of things. Just wanted him to calm down. We were still in the driver seat.”
Hamilton senior shortstop Roch Cholowsky delivered the first hit of the game, a single. Two passed balls allowed him to advance to third, setting up senior Ryan Kucherak for an RBI single to drive in the first run of the game.
It turned out to the only run until the fourth, as both Lettow and Queen Creek senior Nate Gray had peak control of their pitches throughout most of the game.
Hamilton finally managed to breakthrough to put more runs on the board in the fourth. That’s when sophomore outfielder Jaylen Payne singled to drive in a run. Junior catcher Liam Wilson then hit a triple that came inches from clearing the left-field fence for another run to give Hamilton a 3-0 cushion.
Woods said the hit by Wilson came at the right time for his team. It also came from the player who called the entire game for Lettow from behind home plate.
“We only had four hits, one run. He did amazing,” Lettow said, adding that he takes pride in having called the game for him. “It’s definitely an unsung skill to have. It’s worth to see what the batters are doing, to know the situation and what to call.
“I do take a lot of pride in that.”
The cushion was much needed for the Huskies, even with Lettow pitching a no-hitter through four innings.
It was broken up in the fifth by Queen Creek freshman Tait Reynolds, who tripled after the ball got past a diving Payne in center field. Lettow got out of the jam but gave up a run in the sixth.
Queen Creek managed to get two runners on in the top of the seventh, but the mound visit from Woods calmed Lettow down to secure the final two outs.
“I definitely wanted to finish,” Lettow said. “I did it three or four times in season and I knew it was just another ballgame. I tried to go out there and pitch the best I could.”
Both Lettow and Gray pitched complete games for their respective teams.
Gray gave up six hits and three runs in seven innings of work, striking out six batters and walking one. Lettow gave up four hits and just one run. He struck out seven and walked two.
Woods praised Gray and Queen Creek interim coach David Lopez. It’s the second year he has faced Lopez in the 6A championship. Last year, Lopez led the Chandler Wolves to the state title where they fell to Hamilton.
He left Chandler to become an assistant under Mikel Moreno but was thrust into the head coach role when Moreno suspended himself in light of the Bulldogs’ pitch count violation that ousted them from the postseason after beating Hamilton last year in the semifinals.
Woods said they treated this year’s title game like any other, not relishing on what took place between the two programs last year.
“The message was, ‘You’ve been there before,’” Woods said. “Don’t make the stage too big. They’re veterans. They knew what to do.”
The win marks the ninth championship Woods has won at the helm of the Hamilton program.
He’s created a dynasty, one that routinely features multiple Division I players that know how to play together and as a force at the plate and on defense. Hamilton’s run to the championship this year included a perfect postseason record and outscoring opponents 38-7 in five games.
But what makes championships of this caliber special to Woods is the group of players. Each one is uniquely different. Most of the players in this one just happens to be two-time state champions.
“Not all of these guys have done it, some of them have,” Woods said. “Every year is different. It’s a journey and you never know how it’s going to last. There’s no guarantees, especially in baseball.
“It feels great.”
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