GLENDALE -- The bats were hot Wednesday for the Northland Prep Academy baseball team and senior pitcher Chase Hamilton threw 17 strikeouts in six innings as the Spartans defeated Desert Heights Prep Academy, 12-5.
From start to finish, Northland Prep put balls in play and manufactured runs. Eight of the team’s nine batters reached base at least once.
Hamilton got the hitting started for the Spartans early. He blasted a triple from his leadoff spot, scoring two batters later on an error off the bat of senior Connor Barta.
The opening hit and an RBI single were two of Hamilton’s four hits. And while his bat was hot from the start, Hamilton threw six strikeouts in the first two innings and looked like he might dominate the entire game.
“I felt like I got in a groove, threw some heat and I just kept pitching strikes,” the Spartans senior said.
The already powerful wind picked up in the third inning, even causing a few short stoppages in play. Fly balls were difficult to judge, resulting in several errors for both teams. Desert Heights (1-7, 1-5 Central Region) started making contact on the ball more frequently, and Northland Prep (5-4, 5-1 Central) saw its lead begin to crumble.
Northland Prep gave up all five of host’s runs in the bottom of the third inning, evening the score at 5-5, due in part to the inability to make accurate throws and clean catches.
“With the wind blowing the way it was, it seemed to affect us in a bunch of different ways,” Spartans manager Matt Schmidt said.
Hamilton led off the fourth inning. He hit a double, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly for the first of four runs as the Spartans took a 9-5 lead they would never lose.
Hamilton bolstered the productive top of the inning by striking out the side.
“I’ve always been one for starting it off, leading the team and starting the rally,” Hamilton said.
Northland Prep, ranked No. 15 entering the day in the 2A Conference and holding the top spot in its region, added two runs in the fifth and one in the seventh, all while Hamilton continued to strike out batters. Finally at his pitch count after six innings, he finished with 17 strikeouts and walked off the mound to congratulations from his teammates.
Sophomore Jerry Wilson threw two more strikeouts in relief and finished the game in easy fashion with the 12-5 lead still intact.
“That was his first time on the mound this year, and he threw all strikes. We just kept going with the fastball and they couldn’t catch up to it, so it worked,” Schmidt said after his Spartans handled the No. 32 Coyotes.
Wilson also recorded three RBIs and as many hits and added a double.
Wednesday’s victory was the second in as many days and Northland Prep moved over .500 on the season with a 5-4 record. Consecutive wins is a blessing for the Spartans, who had lost three straight before Tuesday.
“We felt like we were on a roll at the beginning of the season, and then we lost a few games and stopped playing together for a bit. But now finally it came back together and we’re getting closer to being the team we think we can now,” Hamilton said.
Yet, despite scoring 12 and winning by a large margin, Schmidt felt like his team missed too many opportunities to score. The Spartans left 11 total runners on base and were inexact in their fielding. With just three seniors on the roster otherwise filled with only freshmen and sophomores, there have been growing pains.
Schmidt recognizes the talent his team has, though. At its best, he thinks the Spartans are competitive in the 2A.
“We’re a very inexperienced, young team, so it’s about playing to our potential rather than our experience because that’s when we can play with anyone,” Schmidt said.
Northland Prep will face Desert Heights again on Friday, this time in Flagstaff. That matchup and a pair of contests against Glendale Prep round out the three games left on the Spartans’ regular-season schedule.
Ranked No. 15 in the conference, the win likely bolstered Northland Prep’s playoff chances. It also gave them confidence moving toward the end of the regular season.
“We’ve got pretty good odds for the playoffs. Now we’ve just got to keep winning. If we can win from here on out, we’re in a great position,” Hamilton said.
Panthers 5, Dust Devils 0
Coconino continued its unbeaten streak Wednesday, blanking River Valley on the road to push its record to 10-0.
The Panthers' senior duo of Megan Hicks and Maggy Popham recorded a 21-15, 21-12 straight-sets victory and Coconino dropped just one game overall.
Recording another team sweep, the Panthers have lost just six of a possible 50 individual matches to this point.
Division II Coconino, ranked No. 2 as of press time, will play its next match at home against 15th-ranked Mohave on Monday for a meeting of Section Four and will visit Flagstaff on April 28 to finish the regular season.
Eagles 6, Volunteers 3
Flagstaff concluded its regular season undefeated Wednesday, beating Lee Williams on the road to move the season record to 11-0.
Eagles sophomore Nicholas Conto won 6-0, 6-0 at the No. 5 singles spot, as four of Flagstaff's six singles players won their matches in straight sets. Conto and senior Quinn Kilodinsky also scored an 8-0 victory at No. 3 doubles.
Flagstaff now awaits its seeding for the postseason. The first round of the Division II team tennis playoffs will begin Wednesday, April 28, with high seeds hosting the opening matches.
Spartans 23, Scorpions 0
Northland Prep needed to bat just four innings on Tuesday as the Spartans defeated Sedona Red Rock at home.
Freshman Dakota Larkin led the way offensively for Northland Prep, going a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate, scoring four runs and recording four RBIs. She also drew a walk and stole a base.
Sophomore Reannan Butler struck out eight and allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings on the mound.
The victory moved the Spartans' record to a perfect 8-0. The 2A Conference Spartans, ranked No. 3 and leading the Central Region with a 4-0 mark, visit 3A Page (9-3), ranked ninth, on Thursday.
Yeti 8, Spartans 1
The Basis Flagstaff girls tennis team defeated Northland Prep at the Continental Country Club on Tuesday.
Junior Aeliana Ricci dominated at No. 1 singles, winning 6-1, 6-1. She and sophomore Jenna Crone tacked on an 8-0 doubles win. Aubrie Fitzsimmons recorded Northland Prep's lone match point, winning 6-1, 6-2 at No. 6 singles.
The Yeti finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and sit at No. 8 in the D-II rankings.
Eric Newman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.