The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons baseball team played two strong contests this week, falling to southeast power Sitka 5-4 on Thursday and top notch Anchorage team Service 13-0 on Saturday.
The Wolves’ 5-4 comeback win over Thunder Mountain Thursday at Moller Park did not come easy.
The Falcons, sporting a much-improved roster in their third season of competitive Southeast baseball, scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 4-3 lead in a crisply-played game that began as a pitchers’ duel and was scoreless into the fourth inning. But the Wolves rallied once again. Ty Davis, inserted into the game as pinch hitter, tied the game with a sacrifice fly that scored Alec Duncan. And with the bases loaded and one out, Brian Way knocked a 3-0 pitch from Thunder Mountain relief pitcher Chris Luck to left field for a single that scored A.J. Inman to give the Wolves a 5-4 win.
“We had to play under some pressure,” SHS coach Ed Conway said. “That’s always nice to see that the guys were able to respond.”
Sophomore Joey Inman, getting his first varsity start for Sitka, went four and two-thirds innings, giving up three hits and no runs. He was helped by two double plays and worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth inning. He was removed with two outs in the fifth after taking a hard grounder off the shin. Inman recovered on the play and threw to first for the out. But he was noticeably limping and when his next pitch went into the dirt, Conway went to the mound and called for Devan Romine, who was in center field.
Inman was in line for the win after the Wolves finally broke through against Thunder Mountain starter Dylan Johnson in the bottom of the fourth. A sidearm hurler, Johnson baffled the Wolves early in Thursday’s game, keeping the SHS hitters off-balance with varied arm angles and off-speed pitches. Heading into the bottom of the fourth, the Wolves had just two hits and neither had left the infield. Romine led off the fourth with a sharp liner to right, the first hard hit ball of the game for Sitka. After Johnson got Jake Licari, Way hit a hard shot to third that was mishandled, allowing Romine to move up two bases. Thunder Mountain allowed Way to take second, leaving men on second and third with one out for Erikson Fish.
The sophomore, who started at second base and batted fifth in the order, singled to left to give the Wolves a 2-0 lead.
Romine came back out to pitch the sixth inning for Sitka and Thunder Mountain got on the board to cut the Sitka lead in half. Romine gave up a lead off walk to Gus Swanton, who stole second and scored on a two-out hit by Patrick Millay. Way got the final out of the inning for Sitka. The Wolves tacked on an important insurance run in the bottom of the sixth against Chris Luck, who replaced Johnson. Johnson went five innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs. After a single by Way, Duncan came in to run and Fish executed a text book hit-and-run. As Duncan broke for second, and with the second baseman covering the bag, Fish poked a single to right field through the open hole. Duncan made it to third on the play and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Grimm. An error opened the door for Thunder Mountain in the top of the seventh. Trailing 3-1, with one out, an error and a walk started the rally for the Falcons. With men on first and second with one out, Swanton laced a double that made it 3-2. And a hit by Camden Thomas scored another run to tie the game 3-3. The Falcons took the lead on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Jared Markovitch. Then Conway went to Ty Davis, who was tasked with bunting the runners over. Sitka had the top of the order coming up and Conway saw a chance to move the winning run into scoring position. But a wild pitch by Luck moved advanced the runner and gave Davis a chance to swing the bat. With the tying run 90-feet away, the sophomore Davis responded with a sacrifice fly that scored Hill to tie the game. With Inman on second, Luck struck out Nels Svenson for the first out of the inning. And then he lost his control. He walked Romine on four pitches and after getting ahead of Licari 0-2, he threw another four straight balls to load the bases. That brought Way to the plate. And Luck threw another three balls to Way, leaving the count 3-0. Luck couldn’t find the plate, and with the tying run on third, a walk would have won the game.
Conway said he did not give Way a take sign, but that it was “kind of an unspoken thing” in that spot. Way, though, made the aggressive play. He took the 3-0 pitch to left field for a hit and the Wolves had a 5-4 win. Way also ended up as the winning pitcher.
Against Service on Saturday the Cougars jumped out to a 4-0 start and increased the margin to 7-0 after four. The Falcons would fall 13-0.