Hamilton loaded even without ace

Hamilton loaded even without ace

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Hamilton loaded even without ace

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Chandler Hamilton senior Patrick Murphy didn’t throw a pitch in the state tournament last year. He suffered an elbow injury and made what would turn out to be the final start of his high school career in a 3-0 shutout of Gilbert Mesquite.

Without their ace, the Huskies, flush with the championship hopes that come with playing at Hamilton, faded in the playoffs and didn’t advance past the final eight teams.

“That was kind of a blow to us that he wasn’t able to play,” Hamilton coach Mike Woods said. “He was our guy all year.”

Facing the options of rehab or going under the knife, Murphy had Tommy John surgery in July. The Oregon-bound senior won’t throw a pitch for the Huskies in 2013 either.

But don’t expect a similar playoff flop. Hamilton, even without Murphy, is loaded.

The Huskies return 10 seniors and six starters. A strong junior class only makes it more of an embarrassment of riches.

“This team is actually pretty stacked,” senior Cody Bellinger said.

At 6-3, Bellinger will be the centerpiece of a dangerous offense after being named the team MVP last season after hitting .447 with 31 RBIs.

He’ll join Murphy at the University of Oregon next season, and has his sights set on hitting .450 and making first-team all-state.

“He’s one of the most talented, if not the most talented kid in the state,” Woods said.

Kansas signee Sean Rackoski (1.20 ERA), who stands 6 feet 6, and the Grand Canyon-bound Tyler Erwin (2.06 ERA) will provide a lethal 1-2 pitching punch in Murphy’s absence, with junior Kent Hassler working into the mix.

Replacing Murphy on that staff is impossible, but Hamilton will sure come close.

“We’re not really sure who that person is that’s going to step up,” Woods said, “but someone usually does.”

Not many teams can lose their best player – a pitcher Woods called the best pitcher he’s ever had in the program – and actually get better.

After all it’s this year’s Hamilton squad, not the 2012 Murphy-led version, that will play in the prestigious USA Baseball National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C., from March 27-30.

“We’re going to miss Patrick, and that hurts,” Woods said. “But it’s more about Patrick losing his senior season than about us losing our season.”

Hamilton isn’t shy about its goals for 2013. With defending Division I champion Scottsdale Chaparral going through a major reloading year and state runner-up Phoenix Brophy having to replace some key parts, Hamilton is going for gold.

It’d be nice to fly under the radar, of course, but as Bellinger points out, “that doesn’t happen usually with Hamilton.”

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