Chandler Hamilton freshman Michael Brueser breaks tie with a two-out, two-run triple in the sixth to beat No. 2 Phoenix Horizon, May 12, 2017.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a player named Brueser would key Chandler Hamilton’s drive to the 6A Conference baseball final.
But nobody anticipated it would be freshman Michael Brueser, nicknamed “Little Brues” by teammates, who watched his brother, Nick, lead Hamilton to the state title last season.
This time, Nick watched Michael deliver a two-run triple with two strikes in the count and two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to give No. 10-seed Hamilton a 5-3 victory over No. 2 Phoenix Horizon Friday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Drew Swift came on to pitch the seventh and got a 1-2-3 inning to close it out for Hamilton, a team that had drifted out of the azcentral sports Super 10 at one point.
Hamilton’s first game of the season was a 4-2 loss to Horizon. That began a roller-coaster season for the preseason No. 1 that finished with 10 regular-season losses.
But the playoffs were a different game.
“The focus has changed the last two weeks,” Hamilton coach Mike Woods said.
Hamilton won two elimination games in Tucson, winning both by the five-inning, 10-run rule.
That rebuilt confidence on Friday when Hamilton (22-10) fell behind 3-1 with Horizon scratching across two runs because of wild throws on double-play attempts.
Then, in the bottom half of the sixth, the bottom of the lineup came through with two outs.
First, No. 7 batter Hayden Baker drilled a two-run single that tied the score at 3, setting up Michael Brueser’s heroics.
BASEBALL: State tournament scores, schedules
“He was throwing me breaking balls down and couldn’t get it over, so I was looking fastball,” Brueser said of Horizon starter Colin King, who came in with nine wins. “I got it in and was able to answer it.”
Senior first baseman Nick Brueser, last year’s azcentral sports Big Schools Player of the Year, made several great plays in the field and had two hits. Nick couldn’t contain his happiness for his brother after the game.
“I love that,” Nick Brueser said. “Nobody better than Mike, huh?”
Woods felt his team’s struggles this year had much to do with a lack of timely hits.
SOFTBALL: State tournament scores, schedules
They got them Friday.
“It’s about time,” Woods said. “We were not getting those hits at all earlier in the season. We’ve been getting them of late. We hope to get them one more game.”
Hamilton advances to Tuesday’s 7 p.m. championship game against either Tempe Corona del Sol or Phoenix Pinnacle at Diablo Stadium.
Corona del Sol and Pinnacle met in the later semifinal Friday. If Pinnacle wins, it would force another meeting against Corona del Sol on Saturday to determine who advances to the final.