The pennant rush is on in the Alaska American Legion Baseball League and Juneau Legion Post 25 is in the driver's seat, with the final destination in their own hands.
Juneau (15-4 conference, 18-6 overall) is sitting just behind Wasilla Post 35 (17-4, 21-7) and South Post 4 (15-5, 19-8) with just three games remaining.
If Juneau can win out, and assuming Wasilla wins a final game, the two will be tied for first place heading into the Alaska State Legion Tournament July 25-August 2 in Anchorage. Juneau would have the tiebreaker with two wins over Wasilla (Wasilla nipped South 4-1 on Wednesday).
The next test for Juneau comes in a double header today against the Fairbanks 49's at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Kosinski Field in Anchorage.
Juneau defeated Chugiak Post 33 on Thursday night at Russell Oberg Field behind the 16 strikeouts of Tanner Petrie and 11 runs on 14 hits from the Gastineau Channel boys in a game that had huge implications.
"I don’t know how to describe how exciting that game was," Juneau manager Andy Macaulay said. "That was the biggest game."
Petrie threw 119 pitches with 83 strikes and held Chugiak scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning. His 4 runs (1 earned) given up in the game came on 6 hits, 2 walks and 2 hit batters. The final three innings were masterpieces of work as Petrie shut the door, striking out two batters in the seventh, one in the eighth and two more in the ninth. Petrie fielded a ground ball in the seventh to help his own cause, Christian Gould fielded a ground ball at second to turn a double play in the eighth and Kellen Johansen eliminated a batter with a fielder's choice at third in the ninth.
"You know how intense those games between Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain were last season," Macaulay mused. "Where the kids were just screaming and into it. It was like that."
Petrie and Patrick Millay continue their strong battery communication and both also tallied 2 RBI on the night with Millay going 1-4, including a triple, and 1 run scored. Millay lofted the three-bagger just inches shy of the 406-foot centerfield fence. Petrie was 1-3 and was plunked by the opposing pitcher.
Juneau hitters jumped on a pitching change in the seventh and the first five to the plate connected. Matt Cunningham led off with a triple and scored on a Tod Baseden single. Johansen doubled and Baseden scored, Tal Norvell doubled Johansen in, Christian Gould reached on an error. Petrie singled, Collin Ludeman singled, Cunningham found the bases for the second time in the inning, and Baseden singled to right field. Courtesy runner Kurt Vandor crossed the plate for the sixth run of the inning.
"Our kids really take advantage when other teams go deep into their rotation," Macaulay said.
Juneau scored four runs in the fourth inning as Gould, Markovich, and Petrie reached base and Millay tripled. Cunningham walked and Millay scored on an error.
Baseden continued his stellar left-handed stroke, going 3-5 (1 RBI, 1 RS), Johansen was 2-4 (1 RBI, 2 RS, 1 double), Gould 2-5 (2 RS), RJ Markovich 1-4 (2 RS, HBP), Norvell 2-5 (1 RBI, 1 double), Vandor went hitless but scored 2 runs, Ludeman 2-5 (1 RBI) with two timely hits to keep rallies alive, and Cunningham 1-4 (1 RS, 1 double).
Saturday is a 5 p.m. rematch against Chugiak Post 33. Chugiak plays at Kenai today.
Other Thursday Legion scores included: Wasilla 9, Dimond 5; Eagle River 13, Bartlett 7, and Service 7, Fairbanks 3.
Petrie has a perfect 7-0 record on the season, with 61 strikeouts and just 22 runs (11 earned) allowed on 35 hits.
"He is really having a great season," Macaulay said. "Our kids know that pitching depth is really important, so to have Tanner and our staff is key to our success."