Local All-Stars "play ball"
The Knik major girls All-Star softball team recorded an dramatic 9-2 victory of Dimond-West on July 3, upending the previously unbeaten team, in action held at East Anchorage’s Nunaka Valley Fields.
Manager Caela Nielsen said the team hit on “all-cylinders” in posting the lopsided victory over the heavily favored team.
With the victory, the team advanced to face the host team in the 11-12 year old girls tournament, Nunaka Valley, and sustained a loss Saturday. The defeat sent Knik into the losers bracket of the double-elimination tourney.
The four-team division includes Knik, Dimond-West, and a pair of combination teams including Nunaka, City View, and Polar, along with the Anchorage Military Academy-Abbott-O-Rabbit joint squad.
The Knik girls team suffered a heart-wrenching 8-7 in extra innings Sunday night and were eliminated from the tournament by Dimond-West.
Knik rallied twice, including a three-run top of the third, on four hits, to overturn a 3-0 deficit.
In the three meetings between the two squads, Dimond-West won twice, including pool play and Sunday’s semifinal game. With the victory, Dimond-West moves into the title game against the host, Nunaka Valley.
The boys teams begin play this week.
Knik 11-12 All-Star manager Luke Sorensen said things have been hectic since the end of the regular-season Knik tournament, where his team, the Tigers, won the tournament last week.
“We have been practicing three hours a day,” he said.
With District I titles the last two years, Sorensen said hopes are high for this team.
“There are super high expectations for the team this year,” said the returning all-star coach, who is working with this group for the first time.
Sorensen said the team’s strength is defense.
“We have a good knowledge of what to do with the ball in different situation,” he said.
The team also sports an abundance of pitcher, with 12 of the team’s 13-member roster having experience on the mound.
Sorensen said Knik will play in one of the two five-team pools, with Kodiak, Palmer, the Anchorage Military Academy and Nunaka Valley/City View in their bracket of pool play. The tournament begins July 7, with the team played nightly in games at the City View Fields through July 10, at which point the top four teams from each division advance into District I play, explained the coach.
Unlike the other teams that take part in interleague play during the regular season, Knik Little League has enough teams “in house” to support a full schedule.
Sorensen said the fact that Knik comes into the tournament as a relative unknown, at least for the current season, might have been an advantage but for their reputation based on the last two District I titles.
Other tournaments this week include the 9-10,10-11 and intermediate baseball, managed by Steve Carr and Hal Froehle, respectively.
9-10 boys manager Jasen Thompson said his team has been practicing daily since June 27.
“Despite being a team of relatively young players, the team is improving daily and really gelling together,” said the coach, noting the predominance of the younger nine-year-olds on the roster.
Thompson said he had already seen a significant improvement in the squad’s hitting, and believes that to be a strength for this team. The major challenge will be consistent pitching within the defined, age-appropriate pitch count limits.
Opening ceremonies were held July 7, with Knik’s four-member pool including A-O-R, Polar and Anchorage Military in round-robin play. The double-elimination tournament for those teams that advance begins July 10.
Thompson said that strong parent and older sibling involvement in the practices have helped immensely.
Intermediate boys baseball coach Erick White said things have been hurried for the team, given only one week of practice, prior to this week’s tournament at the Abbott-O-Rabbit Fields.
“We gave them Friday and Saturday off for family time,” he said Sunday.
The team had four days of practice, two hours each.
White likewise declared defense to be the team’s strength, along with experience in tournaments.
“All the players know one another and they know us,” said White, who is teamed up with manager Hal Froehle.
With six pitchers among the team’s 13-player roster, the coach said the team will have to work together, stating that the team does not possess the tourney’s strongest arms or field the heaviest hitters, but are solid nonetheless.
Knik opens with Soldotna in round-robin play Monday, with three days of pool play prior to the start of the double-elimination tournament July 10.
The 9-10 softball tournament begins July 12-13, also at Nunaka Valley, while Juniors softball will be held July 14-16 at the same site.