The Service Post 28 Cougars appeared to be on the verge of mounting a comeback Tuesday after falling behind 3-0 for the second day in a row at the Alaska American Legion State Tournament.
But Eagle River Wolves thwarted the Service rally to win the state championship game 4-3 at Mulcahy Stadium, earning the title for a second summer in a row.
“It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination but you’ve got to give credit to Service,” Eagle River coach Bill Lierman said.
It took an extra inning to get the job done but the Wolves were able to come away with the victory on a walk-off walk, with recently graduated senior Noah Lower scoring the winning run.
“It’s so awesome,” Lower said. “We get to solidify ourselves as the top dog in Alaska. We came in this year thinking people still think South is the top team and we came in thinking we need to take that spot.”
He had a part to play in Eagle River taking an early lead, allowing Service to tie it up and finally he scored the winning run when it was all said and done.
“That’s not what really matters,” Lower said. “What matters is that we won and we couldn’t have done that without the other eight guys on the field and three guys in the dugout. All 12 guys committed and won that game.”
Lower was responsible for the first RBI in opening frame. But in the top of the sixth inning, he didn’t cleanly field a ball that resulted in the game getting knotted up at 3-3.
He was also the last pitcher on the mound for Eagle River and kept the Cougars off the board in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of that inning, he scored the game-winning run on the walk-off walk.
“He lives for these moments and wants to be in the moments,” Lierman said. “He is not scared of the moment and I think it showed today. I had all the confidence in the world in him on the mound and he’s been a phenomenal leader for our team all season long.”
After Lower’s RBI to get the scoring started, his teammate and fellow 2022 graduate Connor Johnson recorded a two-run double to extend Eagle River’s lead to 3-0. But over the next six innings, the Wolves committed four errors, which allowed the Cougars to claw their way back into the game.
Both teams were coming off thrilling come-from-behind victories in the semifinals so it only seemed fitting that championship game went down to the wire and was decided in dramatic fashion.
“We’ve been here before,” Lower said. “We’ve had times where we had tough situations so this was nothing new to us.”
In Monday’s semifinals, Service rallied back from down 3-0 early to win 8-7 over the Kenai Post 20 Twins. Meanwhile, Eagle River stormed back to win 9-5 over South Post 4 Wolverines after rain delay caused a pause in action and opened the door for their late rally. Both teams had an explosive seven-run inning that was instrumental in their respective victories.
“After coming back in a hard fought game we kept our momentum going through this game,” Lower said. “We had hard times and plays that we should’ve made in this game but we just kept rolling.”
The American Legion season immediately follows the high school season so the vast majority of the players that participate in it are going right from one season into the next without much reprieve, making the Wolves’ title streak all the more impressive.
“I told them at the beginning of the season that it was going to be a grind the whole season and that’s what it was,” Lierman said. “They played 58 games with high school and this, we battled through our injuries and I’m glad they got rewarded.”