Cameron Fritz provided a home run, three RBIs and a solid pitching performance Wednesday at Mulcahy Stadium, helping Chugiak Post 33 remain undefeated in the American Legion state baseball tournament and advance to Friday's championship game with a 10-0 win over rival Eagle River Post 8.
"There's no other team we would have rather played," said Fritz of a surging Eagle River team. "It's not a nasty rivalry. There have been moments when it has been intense, but I think we are rooting for each other if we aren't playing each other."
If No. 8-seeded Eagle River can win a loser-bracket game Thursday, it will earn another shot against No. 6-seeded Chugiak in Friday's title game. The Wolves and Mustangs split two regular-season meetings.
Fritz's home run flew down the left-field line and barely stayed fair to spark a three-run third inning that put Chugiak up 4-0, but Eagle River wasn't providing many easy outs when Fritz was on the mound. Eagle River runners reached scoring position in each of the first four innings, with three runners reaching base via walks. Fritz steadied himself in each troublesome situation, finding focus despite the jams.
"It didn't bother me," he said. "It made me buckle down even more. I knew I just needed to throw my pitches."
Eagle River entered Wednesday's game riding a season-high, three-game winning streak and was sent starter David Fuller to the mound. Fuller was coming off a masterful shutout Saturday against top-seeded Kenai Post 20, but the quick turnaround was a little too much for him Wednesday.
"Three days rest after 100 and some pitches is not exactly what I wanted," Fuller said. "If it wasn't this kind of game, I probably wouldn't have been able to go. This is probably one of the biggest games of my life."
By the second inning, Fuller said he knew he didn't have his best stuff. Chugiak chased him in the fourth inning and proceeded to march toward ending the game early because of a 10-run mercy rule.
Chugiak scored two in the fifth, and Chase Wilson's RBI single in the seventh plated Fritz to cap a four-run seventh inning and end the game.
South 17, Wasilla 11
Matt Ilalio rapped a three-run home run among his four hits and five RBIs, and Bryan Baker went 5 for 6 with four RBIs to spearhead South's 20-hit barrage and dispatch Wasilla from the tournament.
Josh Crapps went 4 for 4 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Ilalio also scored three runs.
Baker doubled twice, tripled and stole two bases, plus pitched the first five innings for the win.
David Newman went 5 for 6 for Wasilla, scored three runs and drove in three.
Kenai 11, Fairbanks 1
Thomas Bowe's grand slam served as the big blow in a six-run first inning, and Brandon Mahle and Tay Harling combined on in Kenai's seven-inning victory, which eliminated Fairbanks Post 11.
Mahle allowed just a first-inning infield single in four innings and Harling pitched three scoreless innings.
Kenai's A.J. Hull went 3 for 4 and drove in three runs.
Find Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or call him at 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News