Pitching key to Chugiak’s fortunes at Legion tourney

Chugiak opens against West


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Chugiak Post 33 pitcher Justin Schneider delivers a pitch against Dimond on July 19 at Oberg Field. Schneider pitched a complete game, striking out seven and only surrendering five hits through seven innings as Chugiak downed Dimond 5-0 in its final home game of the regular season.

MIKE NESPER

What does it take for a team to have success at the American Legion AA State Tournament?

Chugiak Post 33 manager Bill Lierman’s answer consisted of two words — “throw strikes.”

And that’s precisely what the Chugiak pitching staff was doing in the final weeks of the regular season, said Mustangs’ pitcher/catcher Chase Wilson.

“They’re just hitting their spots,” he said.

Wilson said consistent pitching will be key if Chugiak wants to perform well at state, which begins Friday, July 27 at Mulcahy Stadium.

“If [opposing teams] can’t hit the ball, we’re golden,” he said.

Chugiak (11-9 in league play) enters the tournament as the sixth seed and will play No. 11 West (2-18) in the opening round Friday at noon. Chugiak swept West in both meetings this season by a combined score of 61-12.

Chugiak is confident in its ability, Wilson said, and the Mustangs ended the regular season playing their best ball.

“We’re starting to peak now,” he said.

Lierman agreed.

“We’ve been playing better baseball as of late,” he said. “We’re hitting the ball well. We’re playing defense.”

Chugiak (13-17 overall) ended its season with three straight losses in Fairbanks. The 49ers swept Chugiak 20-3 and 6-1 in a doubleheader Saturday, July 21 at Arco Field. Fairbanks earned an 8-4 win over the Mustangs the following day.

Chugiak notched a 5-0 win over Dimond in its final regular season home game July 19 at Oberg Field. Justin Schneider pitched a complete game, striking out seven and only giving up five hits.

The win against the fourth-ranked Lynx (13-7) — Chugiak’s second over Dimond this season — shows the Mustangs can play with anyone, Wilson said.

“We know we can stand up to any competition out there,” he said.

It’s also the boost Chugiak needed heading into state, according to outfielder/pitcher Cameron Fritz.

“They’ve been one of our biggest rivals the last couple of years,” he said. “A game like this can get our confidence up.”

The latter is essential at state.

“It’s all about confidence,” Fritz said.

Entering the tournament mentally prepared is crucial, Wilson said.

“If we can stay focused the whole game, we can go really far in the tournament,” he said.

Playing error-free ball is also important, Fritz said.

“We’ve got the talent. When we play clean games, we win,” he said.

As long as their pitching stays strong, the Mustangs — who have a solid offense — can make a run at the title, Fritz said.

“Our hitting is there,” he said.

Individual efforts can make the difference at state, Lierman said.

“You need a couple guys to get hot,” he said.

As a coach who’s watched both a top-seeded Chugiak team make an early exit from state and a .500 squad win it all, Lierman said the attitude of a team determines how far it will go in the postseason.

“We’ve got to raise our compete level,” he said.

 

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

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