South Anchorage High School rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday, putting three runs on the board to stun Service 3-2 and win the Alaska State Division I baseball tournament in Sitka.
The championship is the third consecutive for the Wolverines, and South coach Taylor Nerland said this year’s team included more inexperienced players that came in and worked hard to outperform expectations.
“Honestly, this one was a little more special than the previous two,” Nerland wrote in an email response to the ADN. “Mainly because over the past two seasons, we graduated 26 players (15 seniors in 2021, 11 last year) and coming into the season, there was not a lot of people outside our program that thought that we could win it again.”
South finished the season 19-2 and posted a combined 62-2 mark over the three seasons.
Despite that success, Nerland said the Wolverines were in a number of close games this season. And so playing in a highly competitive game against an “extremely talented Service squad” was not unusual territory for South.
“Out of our 21 victories this year, 11 of them we were down at some point in the game,” he said. “And we were 8-1 in one-run games over the season. Its not a place that we would have liked to have been, but the grit and determination that we called on in those previous (to the state tournament) games gave us the confidence to keep working until that final out was called.”
The team had also won three games during the season where it came back in the final inning, according to Nerland.
According to the site for Alaska Legion Baseball which helps administer the state tournament, South’s Ben Neuberger hit a home run to start the seventh inning rally and cut Service’s lead to 2-1.
Later in the inning Wolverines senior Luke Beard drove in teammate Carson Maltby for the game-winning run, sealing the comeback and the third straight state title.
South overcame a superb performance from Service pitcher Andrew Hickman, who shut out the Wolverines through six innings and hadn’t allowed a hit through five.
Service scored once in the fourth inning and tacked on another in the top of the seventh to take a 2-0 lead until the bottom of the final frame. That set the table for the South comeback, where after the Neuberger home run, Blake Peterson singled and later scored on a squeeze play with Gavin Alexander executing the bunt.
Neuberger, Beard, Peterson and Alexander were all seniors on the team, and Nerland said watching the senior class develop the team into a championship performer was a highlight of the season.
“As coaches, you always think about your graduating group of seniors and what you will miss about them leading into next year (on and off the field things),” he said. “This group is a fun and energetic bunch, that at the start of the season, we were not sure how everything would mesh out.”
In the Division II tournament played in Palmer, Soldotna topped rival Kenai Central 14-3 to earn the state title.
ASAA Division I state baseball tournament
Colony 5, Juneau-Douglas 1
South 4, Eagle River 3
Service 8, Sitka 7
Chugiak 4, West Valley 3
Service 14, Chugiak 0
South 5, Colony 1
Eagle River 2, Juneau-Douglas 1
Sitka 7, West Valley 2
Chugiak 7, Colony 2
Eagle River 6, Sitka 3
South 3, Service 2
ASAA Division II state baseball tournament
North Pole 13, Houston 3
Soldotna 12, Palmer 9
Kodiak 5, Petersburg 1
Kenai Central 9,
Monroe Catholic 6
Soldotna 8, North Pole 3
Kenai Central 14, Kodiak 1
Palmer 12, Houston 9
Petersburg 12, Monroe Catholic 4
Palmer 15, Petersburg 7
Kodiak 8, North Pole 6
Soldotna 14, Kenai Central 3
DI Baseball All Tournament
JT Thompson, Eagle River; Preston Rau, Chugiak; Brayden Parrent, Colony; Tanner Stinson, Sitka; Olav Moeller, West Valley; Eli Crupi, Juneau-Douglas; Gavin Partch, South Anchorage; Hunter Christian, Service; Kaden Bevegni, South Anchorage; Jake Rafferty, Service; Coen Niclai, Service; Ben Neuberger, South Anchorage
DII Baseball All Tournament
Reed Cramer, Palmer; Hunter Williams, Kodiak; Andrew Pieh, Soldotna; Kieran Cabrall, Petersburg; Connor Lanser, North Pole; Braden Smith, Kenai Central; Malakai Olson, Kodiak; Landon Kitzman, Palmer; Jack Engell, Petersburg; Logan Fischer, North Pole; Charlie Chamberlain, Kenai Central; Derrick Jones, Soldotna