KNIK intermediate boys win District I, head off to Arizona
The Knik 10-11 boys defeated Dimond-West, 11-1, Monday night at Jade Park to also win a District I title, reported league president Dan Kendall.
In one of the most successful post-seasons in recent years, the KNIK Little League all-star teams exceeded expectations, led by the intermediate boys District I title Sunday.
League president Dan Kendall said the 2014 tournament season has been the program’s best in his eight years as head and 10 years being affiliated with Knik.
As of Monday, the 10-11 boys team was also in the title game, to be played later that day, and the 11-12, unbeaten in pool play, were seeded first going into District I double-elimination play, also starting Monday.
The 11-12 boys State Tournament will be hosted by Knik, starting July 14.
The boys 9-10 baseball team finished in second, as did the girls 9-10 softball team with the 11-12 girls finishing 1-4 in their tournament.
Both girls divisions District I tourneys were played at the Nunaka Valley fields in East Anchorage.
Kendall said that funding for the Intermediate team to travel to Nogales, Ariz., is part of the state-wide travel funds contributed by each league in the state for that expressed purpose.
The league president said that Alaska Airlines has a history of being very helpful in providing assistance to teams advancing on to regional tournaments.
The intermediate team secured the title, defeating Soldotna5-4 on Sunday in what became the first game of a double-header as Knik, already beaten once in the double-elimination tourney, had to rely on the “if-necessary” title game, beating the Stars 12-8 in the finale.
Manager Hal Froehle said the team’s path to the title was surreal.
Coming out of pool play with a 1-2 record, with their lone victory over Nunaka Valley, the team’s destiny took a different course in the first game of the double-elimination tournament.
Pitcher Kody Froehle helped the squad to a 20-9 win over Soldotna, July 10, with nine strikeouts and allowing four earned runs over five innings against Soldotna, who had been seeded second.
The manager said the hard-fought win was the turning point for the team, who then followed up with a 26-25 win over previously unbeaten Abbot-O-Rabbit Friday.
Offensively the team benefitted from six homeruns, including two each from Able Davis and Gus Lewis, with solo shots from Jack Smith and Patrick Goodwill.
Pitcher Charlie White come on in relief to close down AOR in the late innings, said Froehle.
“That was a complete team victory for us. Everyone stepped up and did their part in contributing to the win,” he said.
Knik then defeated Soldotna twice, 5-4 and 12-8, Sunday.
With the second win, the team earned the honor to represent Alaska at the Regional tournament, held in Arizona. The team flew out Tuesday morning, with their first game slated for Wednesday.
11-12 Boys coach Luke Sorensen said he likes the team’s chance as the District I tournament moves to Eagle River, with Knik Little League the host of the double-elimination tournament.
Knik moved through pool play unscathed, with a 4-0 record, as did Dimond-West in the other bracket, reported the coach.
Knik posted shutout victories over Alaska Military Academy, Kodiak and Palmer, and defeated Nunaka Valley/City View, 9-7, July 9.
“I see it coming down to us and Dimond-West,” said Sorensen cautiously.
The team has conserved their lineup of pitching, only once throwing a player more than 20 pitches, and that being Braden Shackelford in the win over Nunaka.
Shackelford has also been a standout at the plate, with three of the squad’s five homeruns, to date, along with a ground-rule double.
The team’s leading hitter, according to batting average, is Branden Olmstead, with a .889 mark. Another one of the team’s many pitchers, Olmstead also plays in the outfield.
The other hitter noted was Billy Smith, also a homerun hitter, who is versatile defensively, as either pitcher, catcher, shortstop or third baseman.
Sorensen said the team continues to shine defensively and believes that their best offensive games are yet ahead of them.
The Knik 9-10 boys ended up in second, among eight teams, losing to Abbot-O-Rabbit-American in the title game.
The squad was recognized by the tournament’s host with the sportsmanship award, reported manager Jasen Thompson.
“I believe we far exceed the expectations of most for such a young team. It was very exciting to share in this experience with first-time All Star players,” said Thompson.
The team went 2-1 in pool-play, with the lone loss, a 9-8 nod to A-O-R, National; then avenged that loss, with an exciting 19-18 to stave off eliminate in the double-elimination tournament.
Knik then defeated Dimond-West, 16-5, before losing to AOR-American, 38-0, in the final.
Thompson said Knik had been the only squad to score on the champions, losing 23-3, in the first-round of the double-elimination format.
Girls 11-12 coach Robert Sharpe said the team had their work cut out for them, playing against older, more experienced teams.
After coming out of the four-team pool, the team, 0-3, was seeded last, but surprised Dimond-West in the first-round of the tournament, winning 9-2.
“Our bats came alive,” said Sharpe. Pitcher Avery Brown and catcher Kylie Seagroves limited the South Anchorage team to two runs, helped by stellar defensive play by Chloe White, Caitlin Wachmann and Keegan Sharpe, he added.
“I’m proud of the team. We have a strong program at Knik and it showed on the field. I was impressed with the energy and team play I got out of every single girl. We look forward to coming back even stronger next year,” Sharpe said.
The 9-10 girls were 3-1 in pool play and seeded second behind host Nunaka, reported Knik VP of softball Caela Nielsen.
Nielsen said the team benefitted from fine pitching from Paige Sharpe and Morgan Traxinger. The team’s top hitting was provided by Traxinger, Mia Branson and C.J. Davis, each with “in-the-park” home runs.
Erica Santaella was also credited with fine play at shortstop.
“I’m so proud of all the girls who played this summer. We went from having only two majors teams and one minors team to three and two (respectively) this year. We hope to continue to develop our softball program next year,” said Nielsen.
Be sure to take in Boys 11-12 State Tournament play at Knik Little League this week.