South Post 4 barely made the American Legion state tournament, clinching the eighth and final spot with a win over Kodiak in the regular-season finale.
That’s all South wanted to do, make the tournament, said catcher Alec Valdez. Seeding doesn’t matter.
South made that axiom reality with an 11-6 win over top-seeded Wasilla Post 35 on Friday at Mulcahy Stadium.
Rankings proved meaningless for every team Friday – all four lower seeds pulled off upsets and advanced to Sunday’s winners bracket.
Among the teams that fell into the losers bracket were defending champion Chugiak Post 33. It lost to sixth-seeded Dimond Post 21, which plated six runs in the fourth inning en route to a 7-5 win.
Seventh-seeded Juneau Post 25 earned a 13-8 win over Service Post 28, the second-ranked team in the tournament.
Mistakes hampered fourth-ranked Eagle River, which fell 9-5 to fifth-seeded Kenai Post 20.
Chugiak and Service will meet in one of two elimination games Saturday – the other will feature Eagle River and Wasilla.
In the nightcap, South scored six runs in the final three innings to pull away. Valdez smacked an RBI double in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth to help cement the victory.
“We just hit the ball well,” Valdez said. He attributed South’s success to its frequent batting practice during the week leading up to state.
Kenai pitcher Dallas Pierren’s strong outing powered the Twins past Eagle River.
Pierren scattered three hits and surrendered just one run through seven innings. He helped his cause with four hits, including an RBI double.
Pierren said he relied on his fastball to throw strikes.
His curveball was on target too, said Kenai catcher Kenny Griffin.
“That was huge,” he said.
A steady rain throughout the entire game made it difficult for batters to hit the ball beyond the infield.
“The ball’s not going too far today,” Pierren said.
Rain started falling during the Juneau-Service game – which was suspended about 30 minutes – delaying the late game by more than an hour.
Eagle River’s struggles weren’t limited to the batters box. The Wolves committed five errors, and Kenai took advantage.
Back-to-back errors to start the second inning set up Justin Wisnewski’s two-run double, which gave the Twins a 2-0 lead.
Calvin Hills’ RBI single gave Kenai a 3-0 advantage through five innings.
Another error and a hit batter helped Kenai load the bases to start the top of the sixth. The Twins plated four runs that inning to go up 7-0.
Trouble continued for Eagle River in the seventh inning.
A throwing error allowed Kenai’s Joshua Darrow to reach second base. Then, Eagle River third baseman Jacob Walsh dropped the ball while Darrow was caught in a rundown, which allowed Darrow to reach third safely and Tyler Covey, who hit into a fielder's choice, to get to first.
Afterward, Darrow scored on a fielder’s choice, and Covey scored on a wild pitch, increasing Kenai’s lead to 9-1.
“When other teams make errors, we need to capitalize on it,” Pierren said, “and we did today.”
Eagle River loaded the bases with its first three batters in the bottom of the ninth inning, which led to four runs, but the comeback ended there.
Reach Mike Nesper at email@example.com or 257-4335.
American Legion state tournament
Dimond 7, Chugiak 5
Juneau 13, Service 8
Kenai 9, Eagle River 5
South 11, Wasilla 6
1 p.m. – Chugiak vs. Service
4 p.m. – Eagle River vs. Wasilla
1 p.m. – Dimond vs. Juneau
4 p.m. – Kenai vs. South
American Legion team of excellence
Outfield – Ryan Caron, Service; Cameron Fabacher, Eagle River; Spencer Floyd, South; Payton Lauwers, Dimond; Jon Levan, Kodiak; Brandon Neal, Chugiak.
Infield – L.J. Felix, West; Deven Ferriss, Chugiak; Austin Frick, Kodiak; Lauren Frost, Eagle River; Tanner Petrie, Juneau; Matt Schnellbaecher, East; Hector Rivera, Kenai; Ben Ross, Wasilla; Mike Rosenberg, Eagle River.
Catcher – Kenny Griffin, Kenai; Brandan Pickett, Kodiak; Alec Valdez, South.
Utility – Thomas Bowe, Kenai; Gus Swanton, Juneau; Tristen Woods, Service.
Starting pitcher – Jake Arnold, Kodiak; Scott Campos, East; Cameron Fabacher, Eagle River; Josh Fetko, Service; Nick Jensen, South; Nolan Monaghan, Wasilla; Tanner Petrie, Juneau; Dallas Pierren, Kenai.
Relief pitcher – Tyler Boensch, Wasilla; Jacob Butcher, Wasilla; R.J. Dirscherl, Eagle River; Mike Shuler, Service.
Coach of the year – Gregg Frost, Eagle River; Willie Paul, Service; Boone Thompson, Wasilla.