The Thunder Mountain High School baseball team is on the verge of turning the corner, rounding third base, and heading home as one of the top teams in the Southeast Conference.
The Falcons, with a 2-1 record to date in Alaska and 2-6 overall from Spring play in Arizona, play Anchorage’s Dimond High School at Sitka tonight and begin SEC play Saturday in a road double header against the Sitka Wolves.
The Falcons did not make the state cut last year after a valiant effort in the Region V tournament that saw league champ Juneau-Douglas and runner-up Ketchikan advance to Anchorage and meet in the state title game.
This shows the strength of the SEC and the talent in the Falcons program.
“It is a really strong conference,” TMHS head coach Matt Greely said. “We wouldn’t have it any other way. I think there will be some great matchups this year. We don’t know how we stack up and, to be honest, we don’t really worry about what other teams are doing. We just try and worry about ourselves and try to get better every day. That is what we can control.”
Seniors Jackson Pavitt and Dylan Johnson are a big reason the team has survived the first four years of existence. The two have been on the varsity program since freshmen season. They are the first true four-year letterman for the baseball team.
“Jackson is a true utility player,” Greely said. “We kind of move him around the infield and he pitches for us as well, and he does all of this with talent.”
Johnson will be the primary pitcher and will also see time at first base.
“Dylan wants the ball whenever it is his turn in the rotation,” Greely said.
Senior Patrick Millay is equally as valuable. He will be seen right up the middle of the diamond, pitching, catching or using his powerful arm to gun down runners from centerfield.
Classmate Taylor Peterson will be primarily at first base and also find time in the outfield.
The strength of the Falcons will be their mound presence.
“We are pretty lucky this year,” Greely said. “We have a deep pitching staff.”
Johnson has been the main arm this season.
Players who will next see the most time toeing the rubber will be junior Gus Swanton, sophomore’s RJ Markovich, Jared Markovich, Matt Cunningham, and seniors Pavitt and Millay.
Sophomore Tim Christensen could also see some mound time. Cunningham has been more of a relief man so far this season
Freshmen Finn Collins, Jake Tanner, and Guy Bean, sophomore Stephen Beedle, and junior Brian Mielke could all find relief work.
“That is a luxury we haven’t always had in the past,” Greely said. “Having that much pitching is something we are looking forward to and hopefully will be something we can utilize throughout the year.”
There is not enough horsehide, or cowhide, or synthetic covering for this amount of pitchers and the game requires a field of eight other positions.
Last season’s all-conference selection RJ Markovich is talented at first base and can easily maneuver in the outfield. He is one of the team’s few left-handers and has a knack for getting on base.
“We are pleased he is with us,” Greely said. “And we are hoping he has that same progression from last year to this season.”
Jared Markovich has almost made a full recovery from a broken leg suffered last season and has shown the glove control to play primarily at shortstop.
“He doesn’t have a lot of games under his belt at the varsity level,” Greely said. “But we have really liked what we have seen so far.”
Mielke will play outfield; Bean will get duty at first base and in the outfield; Beedle is an infielder who may see some pasture time beyond the bases; Christensen will man the corners of the infield; Collins will cover second base or the outfield; Sophomore Jake Maccaulay will be an outfielder, and could possibly pitch or catch; Sophomore Hunter Miller will find time in the infield; sophomore Collin Ludeman plays outfield and pitches; sophomore Tristan Forrest has caught; sophomore Reece Milks has been at first, second or outfield; Junior Patrick Minsch is an outfielder and pinch runner; sophomore Austin Peterson is an outfielder; sophomore’s Taylor Dallas, Hary Elizarde, and freshman Zach Heywood are on the Falcons’ roster.
“We are giving guys opportunities in the early part of the season,” Greely said. “We are letting it play out. We don’t really have a starting roster and, to be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are really looking forward to getting out and competing against each team we face. Each game is a great opportunity to get better.”
Joining Greely for their fourth year on the coaching staff are co-head coach Bill McCauley and assistant’s Joe Tompkins and Todd Luck.
“We feel that is a strength of our program,” Greely said. “Having that continuity in the coaching staff. Same coaches, similar message, like anything the expectations get slightly higher each year and this year is no different.”