Juneau Post 25 toppled league leader Wasilla Post 35 in American Legion action on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field, winning 12-2 in conference action via the 10-run mercy rule after eight innings.
“No errors was key,” Juneau manager Andy Macaulay said. “We made the plays that we were supposed to. RJ (Markovich) pitched tremendous. For him to go a strong into the eight inning was fantastic and his defense backed him up.”
Markovich threw 7 2/3 innings on the mound, striking out 2, walking 2 and allowing 2 runs on 7 hits.
One of those hits was a home run in the top of the fourth to the Alaska Road Warriors’ B. Ross, but for the most part Markovich was efficient with his pitches, keeping them low in the strike zone and forcing pop up fly balls.
“A lot of focus came into play,” Markovich said. “I started preparing last night. I went to bed early and got good rest. My two-seam (fastball) felt really good.”
Tal Norvell relieved on the mound, getting the last Wasilla batter to ground to Tanner Petrie at shortstop in the top of the eighth.
Juneau’s bats produced 17 hits, including four runs in the bottom of the eighth that ended the game. Markovich (1-3, 1 Run Scored, 1 BB) helped his own cause by singling to lead off the eighth, Kurt Vandor (3-4, 3 RBI, 3 RS) and Tanner Petrie (3-5, 2 RS) followed with singles to load the bases. With one out Matt Cunningham (1-4, 2 RBI, 2 RS, 1 BB) drew an RBI walk scoring Markovich. After a fly ball out, Vandor scored on a throwing error for a 10-2 lead. Kellen Johansen (2-5, 1 BB) singled, Christian Gould (1-4, 1 RBI, 1 RS, 1 BB) drew an RBI walk scoring Petrie and Tal Norvell (3-6 (1 RBI, 1 RS) singled to score Cunningham and stop the game an inning early. Patrick Millay went 1-3 (1 RS).
For Wasilla, B. Ross was 2-4 (1 RBI, 1 RS), J. Butcher 2-1 (1 RS), C. Hanson 1-3 (1 RBI), T. Hansen and M. McJimsey 1-3. The Alaska Road Warriors have recently played in the Bill Miller Wood Bat title game in Kenai against national competition.
“It is just one game at a time,” Macaulay said. “Wasilla just got done playing a lot of games in four or five games and we recognize that. They played hard and are a very talented team. We do not take them lightly. We executed the things that we needed to execute today in the first game. We seemed to be seeing the ball at the plate today against some really good pitching. Our boys can put the bat on the ball and get it on the ground, putting pressure on the defense to make plays.”
Juneau scored first with four runs in the bottom of the second with two outs. Vandor, Petrie and Millay singled to load the bases. Cunningham singled to score Vandor, Baseden doubled scoring Petrie and Millay, and Cunningham scored on a passed ball.
Juneau left the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings with one out and could not advance the runners as the Wasilla defense turned two double plays.
In the third Norvell doubled, Markovich walked and Vandor was hit by a pitch but Wasilla’s Butcher struck out a batter and B Russ fielded a ground ball to retire the side.
In the fourth Baseden singled, Johansen singled and Gould singled but Wasilla’s shortstop M Chauvin fielded a ground ball, flipped it to second baseman R Ruta who turned the throw to S Andrews at first.
“We just had to stay focused,” Baseden said. “We knew Wasilla was a good team.”
Juneau turned the tide in the fourth with a two-out spree. Gould was hit by a pitch, Norvell singled, Markovich was hit by a pitch (Jackson Pavitt entered as a courtesy runner) and Vandor hit a 2 RBI double, with Pavitt scoring another run as a play was made on Vandor.
Petrie reached on an error that scored Vandor for an 8-1 advantage. Wasilla would add one run in the top of the seventh.
Defensively, Juneau continues to get solid play. Johansen stopped a hard grounder with two on and tagged his bag and then threw the batter out at first to end a threat. Cunningham ran down two fly balls in center and Norvell kept runners honest at short. Utility fielder Christian Gould has become solid at second base as the team awaits the return of his twin brother Kyle.
“I just play wherever the coach puts me,” Gould said. “I like every position. I like outfield, anywhere in the infield, and I am starting to feel really comfortable at second. You just have to be quick on your feet and field ground balls.”
Wasilla won Saturday’s second game, a non-league contest, 8-5.
The two teams play today at noon in a league matchup on Adair Kennedy Field.