Wolves' Unprecedented Season Ends Early in State Tourney
The Eagle River High School baseball team wrapped up its most successful season in the program’s history this weekend at the Alaska state baseball championship tournament in Sitka.
Unfortunately, The Wolves came up short in their two games played on Sitka’s visually stunning new home turf at Moller Park. Eagle River, who finished the regular season with an 8 – 3 record, and earned their first trip ever to the state tournament, fell to Sitka 10 – 4 on Friday night, and lost 7 – 4 to West Valley from Fairbanks on Saturday afternoon.
After a 1-2 start at the beginning of the season, Eagle River went on to amass a total of 63 runs while winning their next four games in the Cook Inlet Conference. The Wolves win streak, however, came to an abrupt halt when they faced CIC MVP Award winner Dalton Chapman and the West Anchorage Eagles. Chapman struck out a league record 20 batters as West beat Eagle River 11-0.
As the Wolves stood with a 5-3 record, another loss would have dashed any hopes of Eagle River earning a post-season spot. In the following game, with their backs against the wall, the Wolves knocked the Dimond Lynx out of play-off contention with a 4-1 victory. They then met up with the undefeated, and defending state champions, South Wolverines. In a game that brimmed with excitement and tension, Eagle River handed the Wolverines their first and only loss of the regular season by beating them 10-7.
The Wolves then found themselves in a tie with West as both teams held a record of 7-3. With South sitting on top of the CIC as the number one seed going into the state tournament, the situation created the need for a tie-breaking extra play-off game between Eagle River and West to determine which team would be the number two seed and go on to represent the conference in Sitka alongside the Wolverines.
On May 27th, the two teams squared off in Mulcahy Stadium. As expected, on the mound for the West Eagles was Chapman, yoked with his 89 mph fastball and devastating 12-6 curve. In that contest, however, the Wolves showed their moxie with near perfect pitching of their own, and uncompromising defense. In an extra-inning affair, Eagle River out dueled West by a score of 3-1, thereby solidifying their opportunity to play in Sitka.
On Friday night, at Moller Park, the Wolves faced a rather colossal athlete in Sitka pitcher Brian Way, who stood 6’ 6” with a solid physical frame, to boot. Way’s genetic stock was all too apparent on the mound for Sitka; brother, Matt Way, was drafted as a pitcher in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. After being down 1 – 0 in the second inning, Eagle River tied the game on an RBI-double hit by RJ Dirscherl that scored Trent Talley from second base. Sitka then blew the game wide open by scoring 8 more runs in the next two innings. The Wolves were able to push two more runs across the dish in the fifth inning and one more in the seventh, but it was not near enough to overcome the lead that the eventual 2014 Alaska State Champions had compiled.
The Wolves then took on a formidable West Valley team from Fairbanks the following afternoon. Eagle River pitcher Pete Kott got into some early trouble on the hill, and the Wolves quickly found themselves in a 7-0 hole after just two innings. Eagle River Freshman John Pepin was brought in to put out the fire in relief, and pitched magnificently for the remainder of the game, giving up just three hits in five innings of work. The Wolves started scratching their way back into the game after Michael Rosenberg scored in the fourth and sixth innings, with Collin Metzel adding a run in the sixth as well. Pepin helped the cause in the seventh inning by crossing the plate, which closed the gap 7-4. Unfortunately, Eagle River simply ran out of innings, and thus, the most accomplished season in the school’s history came to an end. Tournament officials named Dirscherl (vs. Sitka) and Rosenberg (vs. West Valley) as the Subway Players of the Game for Eagle River, respectively.
Rosenberg led the Wolves in the tournament at the plate with three base hits and two runs. Dirscherl stroked two hits and scored a run for Eagle River, with Metzel carbon copying those stats. Talley, Pepin, Lauren Frost, Nathan Ragina, and Christian Fabacher also pounded out hits for the Pack.