Hamilton vs. Chandler rivalry reaches AIA 6A Baseball State Championship
TEMPE — The Battle for Arizona Avenue is one of the biggest high school rivalries in the state. Separated by just 3.8 miles, Chandler and Hamilton high schools dominated the prep football scene. The Huskies won seven state championships from 2003 to 2012, while the Wolves won five in a row from 2016 to 2020.
On Tuesday evening, the battle took place on an unfamiliar road, in an unfamiliar stadium. Arizona’s two high school football blue bloods competed in the AIA 6A Baseball State Championship at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The game was the first meeting between the two programs in a state title match. Hamilton dominated, winning 11-1 in a five-set match.
For the past few years, the football rivalry has been all Chandler. Five straight state championships and nine straight wins over Hamilton ended in 2021.
Senior Kole Klecker, who started on the mound for Hamilton, knows how much this game means for two schools that are used to competing at the top.
“Sweeping (Chandler) this year is awesome,” Klecker said after the game. “It’s always fun when the football is playing, when we are playing the students are going out and it’s always intense.”
The senior did it both ways, collecting two hits with two RBIs at home plate and pitching all five innings, giving up just one run for five strikeouts.
Although both coaches understand the importance of the rivalry, each has an appreciation for what the other is doing.
“Every time you play Hamilton you want to beat them,” Chandler coach David Lopez said. “We’re trying to do our part on the baseball side to make things more competitive. I have a lot of respect for Mike Woods as a baseball coach and more importantly as a man.
Hamilton coach Woods said he “didn’t want to make a big deal” of the win over Chandler, and that he appreciates and respects the coaching staff at the school.
“(Chandler) is a good baseball team,” Woods said. “It’s not sweeter to beat Wolves. They are our rivals but (the coaches) are our friends. It’s almost bittersweet.
But for fans, it helps expand the rivalry between the schools from the grill to the diamond.
Trevor Austin, a student at Chandler High School, had not attended any Chandler baseball games prior to this championship. But with the team running, Austin said he would “definitely” be in more of Chandler’s baseball games, “especially against Hamilton.”
Chandler has a chance to overturn this baseball rivalry. Klecker, Gavin Turley and Prince DeBoskie were the only Hamilton players to register multiple hits. All three played their last game for the Huskies, with Turley potentially turning pro in this upcoming MLB Draft.
“I appreciate what the seniors have done, and it’s up to the youngsters to see where the bar is now,” Lopez said. “We’re going in the right direction, and that’s exciting.”