Alex Muir was tense.
The Juneau Post 25 catcher came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Midnight Suns trailing first-place Service Post 28 by one. Runners were on first and second with one out, and third-base coach Dave Cesar could see Muir was feeling the pressure.
“I was so in the moment,” Muir said after the game. “My base coach told me to calm down and loosen up a bit, because I was tensed up.”
Muir dug in, simply looking to keep his team alive. Muir put a good swing on a 1-2 pitch, driving it through the hole on the right side of the infield. Luke Mallinger scored easily from second, and Owen Mendoza sprinted all the way from first to score the winning run, handing Juneau the 4-3 victory.
Juneau never led in the game prior to the final moment, putting runners on base but struggling to find ways to get them in. A solid start from Zeb Storie kept the Midnight Suns in the game, allowing just two runs in the first seven innings. The Cougars eventually chased Storie from the game in the eighth after a one-out double scored Service’s third run.
Juneau coach Joe Tompkins was impressed with the way Storie stayed in the game and battled.
“He didn’t have all his stuff,” Tompkins said, “and he just kept fighting.”
Service starter Jaren Childs kept Juneau scoreless for the first five innings before Juneau pushed a run across in the bottom of the sixth on a bloop single from Bobby Cox. Cox worked the count full before popping the ball just over the third baseman’s head on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.
Both starting pitchers made quick work the first time through the order, as the first three innings were largely uneventful. In the top of the fourth, Service loaded the bases for Carsen Sandau, who sent a line drive up the middle for a two-run single.
Juneau’s comeback began in earnest in the eighth inning. Down, 3-1, Juneau outfielder Kasey Watts drilled a ground-rule double to right to start the frame, and then hustled to score from second on a soft groundout. Watts barely slid under catcher Chris Malagodt’s tag to score, bringing the Midnight Suns back to within one, setting up Muir’s dramatic walk-off hit.
Saturday’s game was a rematch of a non-league game that took place Friday night, which Juneau won 12-5. It was also the first game of a doubleheader, the second of which was a seven-inning game.
Tompkins said he was glad the comeback took place in the first game.
“We’re lucky it went nine innings,” Tompkins said between games, laughing. “The next game goes seven innings, so you never know.”