Service Post 28 earned the No. 2 seed for the American Legion state baseball tournament, but Juneau Post 25 looked like the best team in Alaska as play began Friday in the eight-team tourney on at Anchorage’s Mulcahy Stadium.
“Oh my goodness it was a marathon,” Juneau manager Andy Macaulay said. “And the weather was absolutely awful. Our boys are used to playing in it, but it didn’t make it any better. It never let up, it rained the whole game, three and a half hours. Today was a Southeast day, and our boys really felt at home with the weather.”
Juneau’s Tanner Petrie took the win on the mound, going five innings, throwing 114 pitches with 21 total balls. He allowed just two hits and five runs while walking five batters and striking out 10.
“Tanner had to throw a lot of pitches,” Juneau manager Andy Macaulay said. “Both teams had to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone.”
RJ Markovich relieved Petrie to keep Service in check, going four innings (89 P, 35 TB, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K).
Service walked 17 batters and Juneau walked eight.
“We threw Tanner because our strategy is we have to win today to reach tomorrow,” Macaulay said. “We are trying to advance.”
Josh Fetko started for Service and went three innings (50 P, 24 TB, 6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 1 K).
Juneau did not fare well two weeks ago against the Service ace but on Friday it scored five runs on his mound turn.
“We knew we had a big challenge in front of us,” Macaulay said. “Any time you are the visiting team you want to put pressure by scoring early so that the other team has to play catch up. The boys came out on fire.”
Juneau scored three runs in the first inning on four hard-hit balls as Matt Cunningham singled to right, Markovich singled to right and Grant Ainsworth singled to center to load the bases on Mulcahy’s turf field.
“The turf is nice with the rain because it doesn’t change too much,” Ainsworth said. “It just gets the ball going a little faster. You always want sun but I think we are just fine in the rain. It is nice to put the first game away, you look forward to this game all week. When you get to put it away, you get to look forward to who you are playing next. You are in the good seat and it is a comfy seat to be in.”
With the bases loaded, Kellen Johansen singled to center (scoring Cunningham), and Markovich and Petrie grounded out, scoring Ainsworth.
Juneau scored in the third inning as Ainsworth singled, Nathan Klein walked, Petrie walked and Michael Dale hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Ainsworth.
Juneau added three more runs in the fourth as Tod Baseden walked, Cunningham walked, Markovich walked, Ainsworth ground out (scoring Baseden), Klein singled in Cunningham, and Johansen grounded out, scoring Markovich.
“We are pretty used to the weather here,” Johansen said. “I think it gives us more of an advantage over the rest of the teams but it is always nice to come out with a win in the first game of a tournament like this. Usually I like this field. I have never played in it when there was that much rain. Today it was starting to pool up a little bit. My feet are soaked up to my ankles. I have never seen it like this; I definitely like it better on a sunny day.”
Service found three runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Juneau scored again in the fifth as Gus Swanton walked, Basden was hit by a pitch, Cunningham singled to score Swanton, Ainsworth walked, Klein sacrificed in Baseden, Johansen walked, Petrie walked (scoring Cunningham), and Dale walked, scoring Ainsworth.
“I think it was a different team that Service saw today than the one they faced a couple weeks ago,” Macaulay said. “Every time Service was getting back the momentum and trying to get back in the game, our boys would come back the next inning and answer.”
After Service scored two runs in the sixth, the scoring disappeared until Juneau put the final two runs across the plate in the top of the ninth inning.
With two outs, Petrie singled, Dale singled, Swanton walked and Petrie and Dale scored on wild pitches.
Service answered with three runs in the bottom of the ninth and left three more on the bags. The game’s final out came as Michael Dale made a sliding play to field a ground ball and came up firing, beating the runner to first by a half a step.
“Service was playing hard all the way to the end,” Macaulay said. “Our coaches have been really working with the boys offensively and defensively we only made one mistake all game, we did not give them any extra outs. We all know what our boys are capable of because we have been coaching them for so long. They haven’t really showed the offense like last year’s team did. This team has had some injuries, but today it was gratifying to see them get the hits going right off the bat.”
Johansen went 2-5 at the plate, hitting three runs in and walking once. Klein went 1-4 (2 RBI, 1 BB), Matt Cunningham 2-5 (3 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K), Markovich 1-3 (2 R, 3 BB), Ainsworth 2-5 (3 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB), Petrie 1-3 (1 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Dale 1-3 (1 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K), Swanton 0-4 (1 R, 2 BB), Baseden 1-3 (2 R, 2 BB).
On Saturday, Service was eliminated from tournament play by Chugiak 9-7. Chugiak had opened state with a 7-5 loss to Dimond.
Juneau plays Dimond today at 1 p.m. in winners’ bracket action. In other opening-round play, Kenai beat Eagle River 20-5 and South beat Wasilla 11-6. Kenai and South play today at 4 p.m. in the winners bracket.