Eagle River snaps losing streak before state

Wolves play East in first round Friday


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Eagle River third baseman Colby LeBlanc throws out an East base runner over Wolves’ pitcher Kyle Frost on Friday, July 20 during Eagle River’s 6-5 win at Loretta French Park in Chugiak.

STAR PHOTOS BY MIKE NESPER

Last week, Eagle River snapped a 10-game losing streak. With the American Legion AA State Tournament starting Friday, July 27, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“We needed some momentum,” Wolves’ first baseman Greg Long said after Eagle River beat East 6-5 on July 20 at Loretta French Park. “This should get us going.”

Eighth-seeded Eagle River (7-13) opens state Friday against the ninth-seeded T-Birds (5-15) at 9 a.m. at Mulcahy Stadium. The Wolves went 2-1 against East this year.

On July 20, Kyle Frost scored the game-winning run when East’s catcher mishandled a throw home in the bottom of the seventh inning. Kyle Frost also got the win, pitching five scoreless innings and striking out four in relief.

Colby LeBlanc had two hits, including a double, and Chris Parker scored twice for the Wolves.

LeBlanc provided the game-winning hit Sunday, July 22 when he ripped a two-run single in the seventh inning to lift Eagle River past Bartlett 5-4 — the Wolves’ second straight win at home.

Ricky Ayala and Wesley Bennice each scored twice for Eagle River. Kyle Frost had two hits, including an RBI triple.

Bennice pitched seven innings and got the win. Parker pitched two scoreless innings to earn the save.

Eagle River finished its regular season with a 10-0 loss to South on Monday, July 23 at Taylar Young Memorial Field. The Wolves finished the season 9-20 overall.

With the slump behind them, Eagle River can focus on entering the state tournament fresh, Long said.

“We’re hoping to peak by the time we get in there,” he said.

The Wolves need to play with passion, Long said, something the team failed do as the losses piled up.

“We just weren’t as enthusiastic,” he said. “We were flat.”

Injuries also mounted along with the losses, head coach Gregg Frost said. The three days off before state should give a banged-up Wolves squad a chance to recover, he said.

Eagle River needs to keep its game simple and stick to the basics, Long said.

“We just need to play the fundamentals of the game,” he said. “Don’t make silly errors. Once you do that, any team is solid.”

Coach Frost agreed.

“We have cost ourselves a lot of ball games,” he said. “We just need to do the simple things.”

Mental errors were a major factor in the 10-game skid, Long said, and will determine how far the Wolves will advance in the postseason.

“As long as we don’t do that, our team is as good as anybody,” he said.

Pitching will also be key, said Ayala, Eagle River’s leadoff hitter.

“If we’re throwing strikes, we’re gonna win,” he said. “Our defense is one of the best in the state.”

Solid pitching also aids Eagle River on offense, Ayala said.

“When we throw strikes, we hit the ball, too,” he said. “It all just comes together.”

David Fuller has been one of Eagle River’s aces this season. After suffering a broken thumb, Fuller should be back on the mound in time for state, coach Frost said.

“He’s had a phenomenal season,” coach Frost said. “He has shut every quality team down.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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