If a field of dreams is in a cornfield down south, then for sure the stadium of reality rests in the hearts of wherever the Juneau baseball community plays.
For the fourth straight year, the Gastineau Channel Little League Junior All-Stars have won the state championship.
Add that to the JD high school team’s state titles in 2008, ‘10 and ‘12; and the GCLL majors title in 2010 and the script has been written.
“It is a lot of things,” Junior All-Stars manager Joe Tompkins said. “The beginner programs, the Mid Night Suns, the parents, the coaches, the community, volunteers and the players. We have a lot of sportsmanship and hard work that classifies Juneau baseball. There is a lot of strategery in baseball.”
That sportsmanship was evident as, after beating Abbott-O-Rabbit 9-7 for a three-game sweep in Anchorage on Wednesday night for the Alaska State Juniors All Star title, the GCLL team was also awarded the Sportsmanship Trophy.
“The boys are real excited,” Tompkins said. “They have been working their butts off, the coaches don’t have to push them at all.”
Tim Christensen started on the mound, going three-and-a-third innings, striking out three, walking two and giving up seven hits. Christensen also helped his own cause by blasting his first career home run to tie the score at 1-1 in the second inning.
Guy Bean came on in relief with runners aboard and threw 20 pitches, giving up two unearned runs and Mo Bullock threw 20 pitches allowing one hit while striking out two. Grant Ainsworth completed the pitching cycle for two innings.
“Our pitchers did a good job,” coach Matt Greely said. “They got a lot of ground balls put in play. Normally our defense is pretty solid, but we did have a small lapse. We pitched to contact and attacked the strike zone. Our bullpen depth was strong.”
Juneau trailed 7-3 in the fourth inning. Matt Cunningham hit a sacrifice RBI to make it 7-4. In the fifth Juneau got five runs as Jared Markovich singled, Jake Tanner singled and Bean bunted to load the bases. Bullock singled in two runs to trail 7-6. Alex Muir tied the score with a single and Cunningham hit a bloop fly ball past the pitcher that scored two more.
Cunningham was 0-2 with 2 RBI and 1 RS; Ainsworth 2-4; Markovich 2-4; Tanner 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 RS; Christensen 1-2, 2 RBI; Finn Collins 0-1; Brendan Pietz 0-3; Kaleb Tompkins 0-1; Muir 0-3, 1 RBI; Bullock 0-1, 1 RBI; Williams 0-1, 2 RS; Bean 1-1.
For the past five years Tompkins has been coaching 3-4 baseball teams each season from little league, high school and Midnight Suns traveling teams. He can be found, from April through July, at Miller Field 1, Adair Kennedy, Melvin Park, or the Dimond Fieldhouse. And if you look closely around him, there will be a number of other coaching figures.
Historical baseball great Babe Ruth once said that baseball was his saving grace as an orphan. This team of Juneau kids have been away from home for the past three weeks and starting July 31, Tompkins and crew will be at Vancouver, Washington for the Little League U.S. Western Regional’s. During the past two seasons the GCLL juniors have beaten a team from Hawaii and from Southern California.
“That is the first time an Alaska team has done that,” Tompkins said. “When the boys are away from their parents they are growing and becoming a team. A coach told me the other day, the best baseball team you could have would be 12 orphans.”
Twelve orphans... and manager Joe Tompkins and coaches Matt Greely and Frank Tompkins.
Majors open state play with win: According to Majors baseball coaches the Juneau All-Stars have started where they left off in the district tournament at Haines by shelling Diamond West for 15 runs on 12 hits, for an opening mercy rule win in the Alaska State Majors All Star Baseball Tournament at Anchorage on Wednesday. Dimond West scored no runs. Leading the offense was Kasey Watts going 4-4, with a HR, 3 RBI, and 2 RS. Bryce Swafford was 2-4, 2HR, 3Rbi, 1R; Erik Kelly 2-4, HR, 3RBI, 2R; Zeb Storie 2-4, 2B, SB, 2R; Michael Cesar, Jacob Dale, Sammy McKnight, and Franklin San Nicholas all had a hit. Cesar had 2RBI, 2R; San Nicholas got a 2B, RBI; Dale an RBI, 1R; and McKnight scored a Run. Juneau scored five in the 1st, two in the 2nd and eight in the 4th. Swafford pitched an almost complete game with 50 pitches, striking out five and allowing two hits. Erik Kelley came in to close the game striking out the last batter to save Swafford who will be able to pitch again Saturday.