Lettow leads Hamilton to 9th title

May 17, 2023 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365

Hamilton defended its 6A title and added its 9th title, fifth most in state history for baseball. (Jose Garcia/azpreps365)

Eight seniors started for Hamilton in the 6A baseball championship game.

Its coaching staff also was loaded with veteran leadership.

But all of that experience didn’t keep head coach Mike Woods from getting somewhat nervous Tuesday.

“We are a veteran group,” he said. “Our guys are confident. There wasn’t any panic at all. Maybe (during the last at-bat), because that (Ryker) Waite kid can really hit.”

Waite represented the potential go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

But Rohan Lettow calmed his team’s nerves. Hamilton’s ace finished the game just like it started, getting Queen Creek’s leadoff hitter, Waite, to ground out to second base.

All that was left was the celebration after Hamilton defeated Queen Creek 3-1 at Tempe Diablo Stadium to win the program’s ninth title. A one-out single by Lucas Ferreira and a walk to Queen Creek pinch hitter, Cayden Cooper, the semifinal hero who hit a grand slam, forced Hamilton to sweat out the final minutes.

But Lettow then got Alex Gamboa to fly out to before facing Waite.

“I definitely wanted to finish,” the Arizona State committed pitcher said.

Lettow struck out eight and scattered four hits to complete an 11-0 season.

Woods said the last time a Hamilton pitcher was this dominant in a title game was 20 years ago.

That’s when pitcher C.J. Rutherford led Hamilton to its very first title. Hamilton is 9-3 in championships appearances with Woods, who’s been at Hamilton since it opened in 1998, at the helm.

“Because it’s a different group of guys,” said Woods about the significance of every title victory. “That’s why. Not all of these guys have done it. Some of them had, but every year is different. It’s just a journey. You never know how long it’s going to last.

“There’s no guarantees, especially in baseball.”

Besides Lettow, Woods also praised his catcher, Liam Wilson, who called the entire game.

“He’s been incredible,” the coach said.

Woods also complemented another pitcher, Queen Creek starter Nate Gray. Gray and freshman Jet Berry hit triples at the Diablo Stadium.

“I have to tip my hat to Mr. Gray over there,” he said. “He was tremendous today. He was spotting that fastball on the outside corner and doing a great job. He did a super job of keeping us at bay.”

Gray gave up just two earned runs and six hits.

A first inning throwing error with two outs gave Hamilton the early 1-0 led. Hamilton (26-6) scored its three runs with two outs.

A Jaylen Payne (2 for 3) single, Wilson RBI triple off the top of the wall and RBI single by Zach Wadas in the fourth inning was the only time Hamilton strung some hits against Gray. UCLA commit and potential first round pick Roch Cholowsky also went 2 for 3.

Despite the loss, Queen Creek (28-8) coach David Lopez and his boys also deserve to be congratulated, because the last time the program reached a baseball title game was 32 years ago. This is the second consecutive year that Lopez has guided a program to the 6A championship game.

Queen Creek reached its first title game since 1991. (Jose Garcia/azpreps365)