Welcome to The Rewind, a weekly digest that puts a spotlight on the biggest stories and best performances from Alaska’s world of sports.
In summer baseball action, the Alaska American Legion had teams competing in and out of state and one of its stars made a big decision about where he’ll be playing at the next level. In college sports news, the University of Alaska Anchorage got a new sponsor for its sports complex and a track and field star received another accolade. On the national scene, an Olympic swimmer won more hardware, an endurance cyclist won a grueling race and a professional poker player cashed in big.
Headlines and highlights
There were a pair of Alaska American Legion tournaments that took place this past week with games that were played in and out of town. Both resulted in out-of-state teams finishing in first place with the Emerald Challengers of Eugene, Oregon, following up their triumph at the annual Midseason Classic tournament by winning the Todd Ryan Tournament.
The team they defeated in the title game on Wednesday was Lower Columbia of Longview, Washington. Lower Columbia bounced back by winning the Lance Coz Wood Bat Tournament that wrapped up on Sunday with their decisive win over Kenai.
With two weeks left before the Legion AA postseason gets underway, positioning for bids to make the state tournament are getting tighter. At 9-1, Service leads the way followed by two-time reigning Legion state champion Eagle River at 7-2, Kenai at 6-2, and both Chugiak and Dimond with matching 6-3 records.
One of the best players not just on the Cougars roster but in the entire state is catcher Coen Niclai. The rising senior and 2022-2023 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year announced his verbal commitment to play at the University of Oregon on social media Wednesday. He attended an Area Code Tryout at the school last weekend and impressed the coaching staff so much they extended an offer.
“It feels good and a little relief of the shoulders but I still have work to do to be able to compete at that level,” Niclai said.
While he won’t be able to sign his official commitment papers until November at the earliest, Niclai is grateful he will be able to keep donning the same green and yellow colors in college that he has had during his high school career.
In Alaska Baseball League action, the Anchorage Bucs entered the weekend riding an eight-game winning streak before having it snapped by the Anchorage Glacier Pilots in a 5-1 defeat on Saturday evening.
For the second year in a row, Dimond’s Maia Struble was selected to be a 2023 Dexter High School All-American for bowling. The recent graduate and Valparaiso University commit was one of five male and five female bowlers from across the country to get selected annually for the All-American team. Honorees are chosen based on bowling and academic achievements as well as letters of recommendation and community involvement.
UAA and Avis Alaska announced a 10-year sponsorship agreement to rename the Seawolf Sports Complex the Avis Alaska Sports Complex. The naming deal is worth $1 million and the change went into effect Saturday. The facility opened in 1978 and is home to the Seawolves’ Division I hockey program as well as campus fitness and wellness facilities.
“We are honored Avis Alaska has chosen to make a long-term investment in the university and in Seawolf Athletics,” UAA chancellor Sean Parnell said in a statement from the university. “The entire community will benefit from this partnership, and we are especially excited about what this means for the future of Seawolf Hockey.”
UAA track and field star Cole Nash received another accolade for his elite performance in the classroom Thursday when he received Academic All-American honors from College Sports Communicators. It marked the latest and final in a long list of honors the standout distance runner has accumulated for the 2022-2023 school year and seasons.
“Cole embodies everything we want in a student-athlete,” UAA track head coach Ryan McWilliams said in a statement. “His strong drive and commitment to running carries over to his academics allowing him to be elite at both.”
He was also named GNAC Male Scholar Student-Athlete of Year, GNAC Cross Country Athlete of the Year, GNAC Male Athlete of the Meet (indoor track and field), won three GNAC titles, received three All-GNAC honors, broke two GNAC Championship records, was named an All-American twice and got all-region recognition three times.
In hockey news, the Anchorage Wolverines announced their 60-game schedule for the 2023-2024 season Wednesday. They will open the season on the road against the Minnesota Wilderness on Sept. 9 followed by the four-game NAHL showcase taking place from September 13-16 and their first home game will be against the Kenai River Brown Bears on Oct. 6.
Alaska stars shining Outside
Last week, Seward’s Lydia Jacoby continued her sensational summer following her standout freshman year at the University of Texas. The 19-year-old sophomore won a pair of silver medals on back-to-back days by finishing second in the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke at the 2023 USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Jacoby finished the 100-meter breaststroke final with a time of 1 minute, 5.16 seconds, Friday. The day before, she finished the 50-meter race with a mark of 29.81 seconds which was a personal best and just four-hundredths of a second behind winner Lilly King.
Anchorage’s Lael Wilcox conquered the first challenge in her quest to complete a bikepacking triple crown in the same year when she finished first in the 2023 Tour Divide race with a time of 16 days and 20 hours. It marked her fifth time competing in the race but the first officially winning it and it was her “hardest for sure” because she had to overcome “a health scare and some pretty crazy weather” before reaching the finish line.
Anchorage’s Adam Hendrix still leads all Alaskans at the 54th annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, with 12 cashes now totaling $722,359 after getting a major boost from his fifth-place finish in the $50,000 High Roller Pot-Limit Omaha on Friday in which he won $570,671, per wsop.com.
Last week’s results
Wasilla 8, Palmer 2
Lower Columbia (WA) 11, Eugene (OR) 1
Eugene (OR) 15, Wasilla 5
Lower Columbia (WA) 11, Wasilla 1
Lower Columbia (WA) 7, Palmer 5
Eugene (OR) 12, Palmer 1
Eagle River 6, West 2
Eugene (OR) 11, Lower Columbia (WA) 0
Palmer 8, Wasilla 5
West 12, South 6
Chugiak 11, Dimond 9
Service 4, West 0
Dimond 12, South 7
Mid-Valley (OR) 12, Eagle River 7
South 6, Juneau 5
Palmer 7, Ketchikan 0
Untouchables (OR) 15, Eagle River 14
Eugene (OR) 11, Eagle River 1
Lower Columbia (WA) 12, Bartlett 4
Lower Columbia (WA) 2, Kenai 1
Keizer (OR) 7, Eagle River 4
Chugiak 12, AK Wild 0
Chugiak 6, AK Wild 2
West 3, Wasilla 2 (9 innings)
Service 21, Ketchikan 0
Service 11, Ketchikan 1
Dimond 7, Juneau 1
Service 14, East 4
South 2, Wasilla 1
Palmer 5, Service 4
Eagle River 9, Boys of Summer (OR) 8
Lower Columbia (WA) 4, Kenai 3
Alaska Baseball League
Bucs 9, Chinooks 5
Miners 8, Glacier Pilots 5
Bucs 8, Miners 3
Glacier Pilots 11, Chinooks 0
Bucs 7, Chinooks 4
Miners 10, Glacier Pilots 5
Bucs 13, Miners 12
Glacier Pilots 5, Bucs 1
Chinooks 9, Glacier Pilots 4
Chinooks 12, Glacier Pilots 1
Alaska Baseball League
Bucs v. Glacier Pilots at Mulcahy Stadium, Tuesday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Friday at 6 p.m.
The two Anchorage clubs will face off three time this week including twice in one day as they are slated to play a late doubleheader July 4. The Bucs will be looking for some payback after the Pilots snapped their eight-game winning streak.
Tuesday, Juniors at 9 a.m., Women at 11 a.m., Men at 2 p.m.
While this annual event will be held in Seward, it will feature competitors from not just across the state but from around the world and it will also be taking place on Independence Day.