Baseball is a game of failure. Any hitter will tell you as much.
It is a game, they will say, where if you succeed 30 percent of time — thus a .300 batting average — you are considered an utter success. So, “failure” gets thrown around a lot.
But there was an extra sense of disgust in his voice this week when Hamilton senior Austin Filiere referred to last season as just that.
“It was definitely an absolute failure,” Filiere said this week.
Filiere might be a bit tough on himself. Even at the high school level where offensive numbers are inflated, a .288 average isn’t horrible. But after Filiere broke the middle finger on his right hand during the preseason, he never felt fully comfortable at the plate or in the field, even when healthy again.
But Filiere is comfortable this year and his statistics and outlook show as much as the Huskies pursue a fourth state championship.
“It was a tough junior year, but almost as soon as it was over and we started our summer program he was a changed young man,” Hamilton coach Mike Woods said. “He has been our best player this year.”
That last statement from Woods says a lot. Hamilton is the top seed in the Division I state tournament — three wins from the title after Thursday’s 2-1 victory over Mesquite — and a nationally ranked team in multiple publications, as high as No. 1 in one poll, with a 27-3 record through Friday.
“He wouldn’t like me saying that, ‘best player,’” Woods said. “But his production has been better than anyone else’s. We have a lot of good players but he’s been our best.”
Filiere was hitting .505 with 46 hits, 39 runs and 24 RBIs entering Thursday. That is production.
“Last year was short of what I expected and what he expected,” Woods said. “It was a tough year. But Austin is a year older and more experienced. He doesn’t try to be something he’s not and what he is is a really good hitter.”
Filiere also is a smart hitter and that intelligence extends into the classroom as well. Filiere will attend prestigious MIT next year, where he’ll also play baseball.
“It’s tough to turn down MIT,” Filiere said. “If baseball doesn’t work out I should have a great opportunity after college.”
Math always came easy to Filiere, he said, but it doesn’t take any sort of advanced calculations to know his nearly 50 hits in less than 100 at-bats is an outstanding batting average.
And despite the Huskies’ low-scoring affairs in the first two rounds and a plethora of good pitching still left in the field, both Filiere and Woods believe that average and Hamilton’s offense will have something to say about who hoists the state championship trophy May 20.
“This team just seems to hit good pitching better than not as good pitching,” Filiere said. “But we just want to win. That’s what we’re about this year and that’s what we’re focused on.”
The Huskies played 20th-seeded Liberty on Saturday. A win would have them in Thursday’s semifinals at Tempe Diablo Stadium; a loss would put them in a losers’ bracket game Tuesday at Tempe Diablo.
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