The 2022 Division I high school baseball season officially came to a close Saturday afternoon when South defeated the Sitka Wolves 6-0 to repeat as Alaska state champions and complete a second straight season with an unblemished record.
“It started with the group last year,” South coach Taylor Nerland said. “We had a great senior class and then these guys this year. They’re guys that buy in to that hard work and that you’re going to get something out of what you put in.”
The last two times these to teams met was in the 2017 season and Sitka came out on top of both games by one run, including the state title game that year. Nerland is glad to “finally get over that hump.”
“I couldn’t help but think about that,” Nerland said. “Third time is the charm apparently.”
After a couple of scoreless opening frames, the Wolverines made adjustments to the off-speed pitching of Wolves freshman pitcher Bryce Compagno-Calhoun and recorded at least one run their next four times at bat.
“Guys like that are tough to hit,” Nerland said. “We got some timely hits and took advantage of some different things. It’s one of things where you tell them to do it but its hardest thing to do.”
South didn’t have just one player take over the game or ignite their offensive spark. They had four different players record RBI singles and five different players record runs.
One player that did both was senior Skyler Sugita who reached home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning and brought home his teammate Gavin Partch for the team’s second run in the bottom of the fifth.
“Skylar is one of those guys that is incredibly smart, just a tough competitor out there, always wants to do his best and when he doesn’t he’s hard on himself,” Nerland said. “He is his own hardest critic.”
He was swing player last year and wasn’t on varsity full-time but was a key contributor on this year’s team, earning multiple accolades along the way. Sugita was one of four Wolverines that were named to the state all-tournament team.
“He was first-team outfield CIC because of his leadership out there,” Nerland said. “At the beginning of the year I told him ‘I want you to be that general out there that moves guys around depending on who the pitcher is and what he’s doing.’ ”
His senior season and entire baseball journey up to this point was made even sweeter because he has been able to share it with his father, Matt Sugita, who is a member South’s coaching staff.
“It’s been truly amazing,” Skyler Sugita said. “Ever since I was a kid, he has been my coach. There’s been the occasional time where he has yelled at me because of a baseball mistake.”
Skyler and his father made a promise to his grandmother before she passed in April of this year that they would win it all and were elated that they were able to fulfil it.
Senior utility player Curtis Hebert capped off a stellar day on the mound and his final high school season with a complete game shutout. He allowed four hits in seven innings and finished the season without allowing a run.
“The only word I have (to describe) him is clutch,” Skyler Sugita said. “They had hits and we might have had errors but he still kept it strong. Even after pitching six straight balls in a row he came right back and still shut out the team the entire game.”
Hebert said that he was so pumped for the opportunity to pitch in his final game that he could hardly sleep the night before.
“I was fired up and happy and everything went well,” Hebert said. “I had a great defense behind me to keep me in the game.”
While he loves the fact that he was a part of an historic run that featured back-to-back state titles without suffering a single loss, Hebert admits that what he will miss most about his team doesn’t even have to do with their tremendous success on the diamond.
“It’s always great being on a winning team and it’s even better with a group of guys like this,” Hebert said. “All the jokes. We had so much fun on this team and it was fun to be a part of.”
South dominated the 2021 title game defeating Colony 19-0.
Soldotna tops Petersburg to take DII baseball crown
Soldotna put on an offensive display Saturday to top Petersburg 14-4 in the championship game of the Alaska State Division II Baseball Tournament at Wasilla High School.
The Stars scored five runs in the bottom of the first en route to taking the win by the 10-run rule in just five innings.
Soldotna added three more in the second inning and give in the fourth.
The Vikings scored four runs of their own in the top of the third but that was all Petersburg could muster off starter Atticus Gibson. Gibson also had three hits and three RBI for Soldotna.
Soldotna also got big performances at the plate from Andrew Pieh, who was 3-for-3 with four runs scored, and Gavin Jones, who drove in three with two hits.
Kieran Cabral and Jack Engell had two hits each for Petersburg.
Alaska State Division I Baseball Tournament
At Mulcahy Stadium
Sitka 8, Eagle River 6
Chugiak 7, Wasilla 5
Colony 5, Service 4
South 11, Ketchikan 1
Wasilla 8, Eagle River 7
Ketchikan 10, Service 9
Sitka 12, Chugiak 3
South 7, Colony 1
Ketchikan 5, Wasilla 1
Colony 14, Chugiak 7
South 6, Sitka 0
Alaska State Division II Baseball Tournament
At Wasilla High School Field
North Pole 7, Kenai Central 3
Soldotna 15, Grace Christian 1
Petersburg 19, Monroe Catholic 6
Kodiak 4, Palmer 3
Grace Christian 11, Kenai Central 5
Monroe Catholic 19, Palmer 8
Soldotna 9, North Pole 8
Petersburg 5, Kodiak 4
Grace Christian 8, Monroe Catholic 6
North Pole 10, Kodiak 0
Soldotna 14, Petersburg 4