Knik 11-12 Majors All-Stars win state tourney
With the third time being the charm, returning members of the Knik All-Stars 11-12 all-stars have the opportunity to advance out of state, seeking future glory as the team readies for their trip to the Little League World Series Western Regionals in San Bernardino, Calif., held Aug. 1-10.
Expectations have been high for this core of players, who had won the two previous state tournaments while playing in tournaments where the winning team does not advance out of state. This time they do.
But the way wasn’t easy, noted manager Luke Sorensen.
“These teams were very evenly matched,” said Sorensen Saturday, just hours after the team’s 5-3 win in the first of a possible double-header, resulted in a three-game sweep of Juneau’s Gastineau Channel squad.
Tabbed to be a best-of-five tournament, the host Knik team made short order of their Southeast foes, winning 7-6 Wednesday and 6-5 Thursday, before Friday’s rainout posed the potential two-game set Saturday.
In the opener, Knik continued to utilize a “pitch by committee” rotation that brought hurlers up to the 20-pitch maximum, which would allow that player to return to the mound on successive days. The ploy had worked masterfully in the District I pool and championship play, with Sorensen continuing the trend into the state tournament.
Although Knik had jumped out to an early 4-0 in the opener, Juneau reeled the team the host team back in, trailing 7-3 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
Timely Juneau hits resulted in three more runs, when with bases loaded, with a 2-2 count, Knik relief pitcher Sterling Retzlaff closed the door with a strikeout.
Sorensen said Knik trailed in Thursday’s game, with the teams trading the lead throughout, when with their backs to the wall, trailing 5-4, standout Ian Frizelle ripped a double to the base of the leftcenter fence, scoring Billy Smith from third, and Ryan Gray from second, for the winning run in walkoff fashion.
“If Ian’s hit would have had a little more air under it, it would have been a homerun for sure,” said the manager.
With the title on the line Saturday, Sorensen said the game was the tightest yet, with the scoreless bid carried into the fifth inning.
Knik, playing the role as visitors, at least in terms of batting in the top of the innings, scored three in the fifth, only to have Juneau match the runs.
Both teams were scoreless in the sixth, sending the game into extra frames, where Knik scored two with Riley Fugere scoring on Gray’s single, then Billy Smith crossing the plate on a fielder’s choice by Braden Olmstead.
“These teams were so close,” said Sorensen. “I think they may have outhit us but we manufactured more runs than them.”
With the tournament win, the team flies out to California early Tuesday morning. One person not making the trip is Sorensen, as he and his wife, Kastle, are expecting their first child in August.
Sorensen said that Roger Nevells would be assuming the role as manager for the upcoming tournament.
Good luck, KNIK!