South took the first step toward defending its state baseball title Thursday at Mulcahy Stadium.
The Wolverines’ 10-5 win over Dimond in the opening game of the Cook Inlet Conference playoffs secured the team one of the CIC’s two state berths.
“We knew we had to win one of three,” South coach Cliff Butcher said. “We can exhale a little bit.”
South, which improved to 8-0 in the CIC, can secure the conference’s top spot for the June 5-7 state tournament in Sitka with a win either Friday or Saturday.
In Thursday’s late game, Dalton Chapman threw a one-hitter and racked up 19 strikeouts to help West blank Eagle River 11-0.
R.J. Dirscherl broke up Chapman’s no-hitter with a single in the bottom of the seventh and final inning in Eagle River’s CIC playoff debut.
Chapman, whose strikeouts accounted for all but two of Eagle River’s outs, helped his cause with an RBI double during a six-run rally in the sixth inning. He also smacked a two-run triple in the seventh inning.
South was the only team in position to clinch a state berth during Thursday’s first day of round-robin play at Mulcahy. The playoff games count on a team’s conference record, and the two teams with the best conference marks will advance to Sitka.
Even if South loses its next two games, its record will be good enough to get the Wolverines to state. West is 6-2, Eagle River 5-3 and Dimond 4-4 after Thursday’s games.
South, which fell behind early, took control with a seven-run third inning. The Wolverines had five hits, including Matt Kelly’s two-run triple, and sent 12 batters to the plate. The rally also included RBI singles by Jacob Crapps, Jonah Costello and Alec Valdez.
Multiple-run innings have been typical for South this season, Butcher said.
“We are persistent and pesky at the plate,” he said.
Dimond made it an 8-4 game with two runs in the fourth, but South scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to seal the victory.
South typically plays relaxed, Butcher said, as was the case after Dimond opened the game with four hits and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
“These boys play really loose,” he said. “We work at that.”
Dimond had three players with multiple hits, led by Joe Fitka with three. Brandon Sakumoto and Stephen Jacobs had two hits apiece for the Lynx, which got two RBIs from Preston Micheletto.
South has won 11 straight games since losing its first — and only — game of the high school season to Sitka. Pitching has played a major role in the streak, said senior Nick Jensen, one of three main starters in the rotation.
“Our pitching has been dominant,” he said.
Jensen, Crapps and Sage Dudick have been consistent all season, Butcher said, and they have a stellar defense and strong offense supporting them.
Getting contributions from everyone has been another key to a perfect conference season. Eight players delivered hits against Dimond, and everyone is capable of posing an offensive threat, Butcher said.
“It could be any part of the lineup any day,” he said.
Not a bad recipe for a team trying to claim its third state title in four years.
Reach Mike Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335
Cook Inlet Conference baseball playoffs
South 10, Dimond 5
West 11, Eagle River 0
4:30 p.m. - West vs. South
7 p.m. - Dimond vs. Eagle River
1 p.m. - Dimond vs. West
4 p.m. - Eagle River vs. South
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By MIKE NESPER