High School Sports

South baseball is still stocked with talent and hungry for a third straight state title

The 2023 Alaska high school baseball season officially got underway last week and while they lost a wealth of senior talent to graduation, the two-time defending Division I state champion South Anchorage Wolverines still expect to be among the best in the Last Frontier.

It’s been more than two years since the team lost a game as it is also coming off back-to-back undefeated seasons.

Many of the returners from last year that played reserve roles are hungry to make more of an impact this time around with extended and even starting opportunities.

“They saw the success that we had last year and a lot of them got to play during the summer for our American Legion team and got some varsity experience,” South head coach Taylor Nerland said. “That kind of fueled their fire for the offseason.”

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got some great seniors, not as many as last year or the year before but they’re a good quality group of guys that work every single day practicing and are putting in that work,” Nerland said.

After losing Gatorade Player of the Year Curtis Hebert as well as standout pitchers Isaac Johnson and Luke Ivanoff from last year’s team, South has a trio of seniors it expects to be key players it will lean on for leadership as well as a high level of performance.

“Gavin Partch and Kaden Bevegni are two guys we’re going to depend on this year, not just on the mound but the plate in the field stepping into that capital role for a team,” Nerland said. “Also our first baseman Ben Neuberger is another one of our captains. Every day at practice, he’s there working. He’s probably our best hitter and he’s putting in work every single day on the tee getting 50 to 100 swings in the cage.”


Through their first three games, the Wolverines have only managed to outscore their opponents 10-7 which is a far cry from their insanely dominant start to last year when they only yielded a single run in the first five games of the season while racking up a whopping 59 of their own.

“It’s hard losing a lot of our pitchers last year because we had probably the top three pitchers in the state but a lot of our young guys are stepping up now so that’s really cool to see,” Neuberger said.

South opened the season with a 3-2 victory over two-time defending American Legion state champion Eagle River last Tuesday and had to come from behind to beat Chugiak 4-3 on Wednesday and rival Dimond 3-2 on Friday.

Bevegni said “it’s definitely awesome” that they’ve been able to overcome some early adversity while still keeping the streak alive. But he knows they’ll need to improve and be more consistent.

“We got to work harder in practice,” he added. “We know that we’ve got to keep the runs down and keep the errors down. We definitely have a long ways to go but I think we can get all together and go for a whole run here.”

Since there wasn’t a state tournament held when they were freshmen in the spring of 2020 and their program has won the last two in a row, none of the seniors have ever experienced anything but a title season. They hope to keep it that way.

“That’d be really cool and we’re looking at a pretty solid team,” Neuberger said. “We’ve played three solid teams so far and hopefully we keep playing good against every team we play.”

His confidence level in this year’s team moving forward is “pretty high” through their first few games he also believes their bats are on the verge of exploding.

“We’ve been hitting slow but I think we’ll take off soon,” Neuberger said. “Our defenses and our pitching has been really good and that’s all you need to win.”

As much as they are looking forward to upholding the high level of success that has become the standard in recent years, this year’s Wolverines are just as determined to write their own chapter in the program’s rich history.

“They’re hungry to get out here and finally get on the field and have some fun,” Nerland said. “Practice is practice but the games are fun. They’re excited to be out here, work their tails off and see where the chips lie.”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.