Needing a win to keep alive its shot at a state tournament berth, the Chugiak baseball team rallied for 12 runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday at Mulcahy Stadium to blow away West 20-9 in a Cook Inlet Conference tournament game.
"We knew we had to get this win," Chugiak's Deven Ferriss said. "It's good that we're a mentally tough team and that we can battle back in the late innings. You never know with baseball."
The Mustangs' victory created a three-way tie for second place between South, West and Chugiak, which all hold 5-3 records. Service is now alone in first at 6-2 with two games left to play for each team. The team with the best record when pool play concludes Friday will win the CIC championship and the top two teams will earn state tournament berths.
Pool play continues Thursday at Mulcahy, with South facing West at 4:30 p.m., and Chugiak playing Service at 8 p.m.
Chugiak's chances of remaining in the race for state didn't look promising early in Wednesday's game. West held a 5-0 lead after two innings and a 9-4 lead after four innings. The Mustangs plated two in the top of the fifth and two more in the top of the sixth to trail 9-8 at the start of the seventh and final inning.
Chugiak loaded the bases with two outs after Chase Wilson (4 for 5) was intentionally walked, and Ferriss sent the runners motoring around the bases when he smacked a ground ball past the pitcher. The West shortstop hesitated after fielding the ball, giving Ferriss just enough time to beat a throw to first as Hunter Hanson and Zach Brueggemann scored to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game at 10-9.
Kai Fugere followed with hard-hit, RBI single to left field, scoring Wilson to make it 11-9. The runs kept pouring in as West pitchers struggled with their command. Chugiak led 17-9 and the bases were loaded again by the time Fugere came to the plate for his second at-bat of the inning. Fugere put an exclamation point on the win when he crushed a ball to the center-field fence for a bases-clearing triple.
The Mustangs' explosion in the seventh featured five hits, three walks, and three batters hit by pitches, all of which were compounded by three West errors.
"I've never seen anything like that in baseball," said Fugere, who delivered four of his five RBIs in the final frame. "We came together as a team, hit after hit, picking each other up and finding holes in the defense."
Some West players looked dejected as they walked off the field, but outfielder Trevor Grisham said the Eagles will learn from the loss and become stronger as a team.
"We played a good game through six, then we just made mental errors and we need to fix it," he said. "Fix the problems, hold our heads high and fight tomorrow."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS