Anchorage — It didn't take long for South to pounce on Service in the high school baseball state championship Saturday.
A nine-run second inning led to a 15-1 victory at Mulcahy Stadium, where Eddie Lewis went 4 for 4 and drove in three runs to help the Wolverines to their second state title in three seasons.
The win was the eighth straight for a South team that barely qualified for the state tournament, but caught fire at the right time and put together three solid tournament victories.
"I think we rode the momentum really well," said South starter Brad Butcher, who pitched a complete five-inning game that was shortened by mercy rule. "Confidence is the biggest thing for us, because we had 10 seniors last year and people weren't really used to playing at this level, and I think when they got kind of comfortable with it they started stringing some hits together and people were making the right plays."
South finished with 13 hits to Service's three and no errors to Service's three. Thirteen batters came to the plate for South in the second inning, with Lewis the only player to notch two hits in the inning. Lewis, a senior who won a state singles tennis title for South in 2011, was squaring up the ball and lacing line drives.
"Oh, yeah, 130-mile-an-hour serve, baseball, same thing," Lewis said. "The ball looked huge to me today, so I was happy."
South put up another four runs in the top of the third inning to stretch the lead to 13-0. Service recorded its first hit in the bottom of the third when Ryan Bailey singled. Bailey moved to second when Matt Ilalio was hit by a pitch and later scored on a single from Matt Yandell. The Service offense quickly started to sputter again, however, and a chance for a comeback looked bleak after South added two more runs in the fourth.
"I tip my hat to the pitcher, Brad Butcher," Service coach Ken Wooster said. "We're not gonna win a whole lotta baseball games in this league scoring one run."
Service (10-3) entered the state tournament as the top seed from the Cook Inlet Conference and South (10-3) barely nabbed the second and last available CIC berth. The Wolverines needed a win in its final game of the CIC season to secure a spot at state.
Cold spring weather creates a short high school baseball season that in some ways serves as more of a warm up for the summer's American Legion play. If there is any consolation for the Cougars, it's knowing they get to keep playing baseball.
"The high school part is just the first 10, 15 games of a very long season," Wooster said. "Tomorrow or the next day, they're gonna come back and play well. We would have loved to have come out on top, but there can only be one winner."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.