Published July 14. 2013 4:00AM
Even quieter moments during the state high school baseball tournament feel frantic occasionally. There's always the next game, the knockout game, a season's worth of dreams to be decided.
And yet virtually every member of the Waterford High School baseball traveling party, the group that eventually made it to the finals in Middletown, knew of a two-word potion that instantly turned apprehension into "we can't wait."
The two words: "Jordan's pitching."
Greg Gwudz, who coached Hamler in basketball, in reference to the state baseball championship game: "He's made for that moment."
Teammate Kyle Willoughby after the state semifinals: "Jordan's pitching (in the championship game). How can we not feel great?"
Coach Art Peluso after the same game: "I'll sleep better knowing we have him going."
That's all in reference to Jordan Hamler, the ace right-hander, whose senior season was awash in some of his best sports memories.
Hamler was named The Day's 2013 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
Hamler went 9-2 with a 1.06 ERA and 73 strikeouts. He won two state tournament games for the Lancers (23-5), including a 1-0 win over Torrington in the first round and an even more impressive complete game against Berlin in the state quarterfinals.
Hamler, who made the All-ECC Large Division team, also hit .385 with 30 hits, three home runs and 30 RBI. He helped Waterford win the ECC tournament title and make the state championship game, where he pitched a two-hitter against New Canaan in a 3-0 loss.
"It was a great season, a lot of fun," Hamler said. "I wish we could have won that last one. But New Canaan was really good. We had a great season."
A great season made better by Hamler's newfound maturity. It wasn't always that way with him. He didn't survive his senior season in basketball. But spring is for renewal, after all.
"I learned from basketball," Hamler said. "I brought it to baseball. I didn't want this to end up like basketball. I want to be a real team member."
Hamler certainly was. There was no denying his importance to Waterford's ECC title. Yet the night the Lancers beat Fitch at Dodd Stadium and Hamler was there kissing the ECC trophy, he was also deflecting any praise on him to winning pitcher Justin Pandolfe.
"I had 100 percent confidence in J.P.," Hamler said. "He is the man. It's his time right now."
Pandolfe went on to win other big games. But it was Hamler time all season.
"He's figured it out," Peluso said.
Hamler nearly graduated Waterford as the only athlete in the history of the school to play on championship basketball and baseball teams. Hamler played for Waterford's 2011 boys' basketball championship team and scored six points in the last minute of the state semifinal win over Notre Dame of Fairfield.
"When Jordan is committed to something, he's one of the best kids you could ever coach," Gwudz said. "He's tough and he has some craziness, which he knows how to channel. I'll never forget a shot he made against Valley (in the 2011 quarterfinals) and he runs back on defense with his tongue out and everyone's going nuts."
Hamler will attend Division II Southern Connecticut State University in the fall and play baseball there. He chose not to play American Legion baseball this summer in favor of taking some summer classes.
"I can't wait," Hamler said. "I'm looking forward to going down there."