Chugiak, Eagle River Legion hardball top two seeds
The Chugiak Post 33 American Legion baseball team won two league games among three contests heading into this week’s state invitational tournament, to begin on Thursday.
The Mustangs sandwiched victories over Juneau and Fairbanks, with a non-league bout with East, to finish out the squad’s 18-0 game schedule to finish first in the Legion’s National Division.
Whether they remain atop that division remains in question as Eagle River finishes out their two remaining games. League-game winners are awarded four points, and Chugiak’s tenuous 57-52 margin is susceptible to a red-hot Wolves team, whose lone blemish in the week was an 8-4 shortfall to Service on Saturday.
Kenai, currently in the mix with 49 points, also has two league games remaining. All three teams are guaranteed berths in the state tourney, along with Wasilla, Service, Dimond and Juneau. The tournament includes the top three seeds from each division, plus the next two teams with best records as at-large bids.
Chugiak defeated Fairbanks, 13-7, Saturday at the Kosinski Fields, adjacent to Mulcahy Stadium.
Chugiak outhit their northern foes, belting out 12 hits including three from Brandon Neal and two from John Ives. All but two of the 11 Mustang players coming to the plate had hits.
The team started the week favorably with a narrow 3-2 win over Juneau, July 14, at Oberg Field with reliever Deven Ferriss earning the win on the mound
Starter Jimmy Lanier yielded two runs to Juneau in the game’s first four innings.
Mustang bats finally came to life with two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth, en route to the 3-2 seven-inning win. Zach Brueggemann came on in the seventh, gaining the save with two strikeouts.
Juneau actually outhit Chugiak, 4-2, yet committed six errors, to the Mustang’s lone miscue. Cody Kurfman and Ferriss had the hits, both singles, for the home team. Brandon Neal was walked twice, and Jake Kindred once, giving the Mustangs access to the base paths.
Eagle River had mixed results in consecutive games played Friday and Saturday, defeating host Palmer, 12-0, in the first game, followed by the 8-4 loss to Service.
The visiting Wolves could do no wrong against Palmer, powered by Cody Keith’s pair of shots over the centerfield fence, accounting for three RBIs. Keith was 3-for-4 for the days as was teammate Mike Rosenberg. Guido Gerali, John Pepin and Colby Duxbury each had two hits.
Lauren Frost earned the shutout win on the mound, yielding only four hits in four innings.
Against Service Saturday, the Wolves second-inning inning lead, initiated by a Keith double, was short-lived as the Cougars erupted for four runs in the third.
With Service ahead 6-1 in sixth, Eagle River scored three in the frame, led by a triple to the right-center gap by Nate Ragina. Ragina scored on a fielder’s choice by Frost. Cameron Fabacher then ripped a line drive to left field advancing Frost to second. Both Frost and Fabacher scored following a single to left by Rosenberg. The misplayed ball got behind the outfielder allowing both to cross home plate, narrowly the tally to 6-4, Service.
The Cougars scored two in the top of the seventh, accounting for the 8-4 finale.
The Wolves then appeared to shift the momentum in their half of the sixth inning. Nate Ragina ripped a triple to the center-right field gap and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice hit by Frost. Fabacher then hit a line drive single to left field moving Frost to second base. Rosenberg followed with a single of his own to left field that the Service outfielder mishandled when charging in to make the throw, which allowed Frost and Fabacher to both cross the plate and close the gap 6 – 4.
The Wolves momentous surge came to a halt though as the Cougars pushed two more runs across in the seventh inning, which Eagle River could not counter.