The rain held off just long enough for Juneau's American Legion Post 25 Midnight Suns to squeak by the Juneau Alumni team 6-5 on Sunday in an exhibition baseball game at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Will Nicholas won the game for the Midnight Suns in dramatic fashion. With the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, Nicholas raced home and scored the winning run on a wild pitch by alumni pitcher Wade Walter.
"What started the whole thing was he (Nicholas) had a great at-bat," Midnight Suns coach Bruce Scandling said. "He got down two strikes and slapped it into right field. It was Will's last home game in Juneau and he's had a great career here. I don't think it could be any more appropriate than for him to score the winning run in bottom of the ninth."
Saturday's exhibition game was canceled due to heavy rain and the possibility that Sunday's game would be canceled loomed right up the start of the game. But the rain let up and the field dried out enough so Juneau baseball fans were able to watch the only home game of the year for the Midnight Suns.
The game started with an informal atmosphere of a pick-up game, with the some of the alumni team dressed in work jeans and T-shirts, but hodgepodge Alumni squad proved they belonged on the field and tested the Midnight Suns throughout the contest.
Juneau drew first blood when Evan Scandling scored on a passed ball in the first inning to give the Midnight Suns an early 1-0 lead. But the Alumni came back and threatened in the third inning, but Kalen Meek picked off Jessie Parr at third and centerfielder Mike Rader gunned down Jason Bavard who tried to scored from second on a single by Walter.
The Alumni got on the board in the fourth inning when Jake Stoops singled and Mike McKinnon homered off Meek to take a 2-1 lead. Meek struck out the next three batters to get the Midnight Suns out of the inning.
Post 25 answered with four runs in their half on the fourth inning. Steve Hartrich, Will Nicholas each had RBI singles in the inning and David Coogan cracked a double off the centerfield fence that score two more to make the score 5-2.
Three errors by the Midnight Suns in the sixth inning enabled the Alumni squad to tied the game at 5-5 without even getting a base hit and all runs were scored with two outs. "That one inning kind of killed us," Nicholas said.
"When we get two outs, easy plays become hard for us," Midnight Suns coach Jim Ayers said. "We have to be ready to play tough baseball and it take discipline."
The Midnight Suns had a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning when Zach Kohan tried to score from third on a passed ball, but was called out on a close play at the plate.
Nick Wolf earned the win and Walter, who pitched the entire game for the Alumni, took the loss. The Midnight Suns had the advantage putting five pitchers on the mound throughout the game, including Scandling, Meek, Nicholas and Bud Baun.
"We had a plan going in that nobody would throw more than 30 pitches," Bruce Scandling said. "We have to play Wasilla on Wednesday, so we need those guys fresh."
"I wasn't expecting a pitching performance like the one we got out of Wade," Alumni coach Bill McCauley said. "He was the only one of our guys who was in playing shape."
The Midnight Suns leave for Anchorage on Tuesday for a three-week road trip where they will play Legion teams from the Anchorage and Kenai areas, culminating with the state tournament.
Midnight Suns 6, Alumni 5
Sunday's game at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
Alumni 000 203 000 -- 5 8 0
Midnight Suns 100 400 001 -- 6 9 3
Nicholas, Meek (3), Scandling (5), Baun (7), Wolf (8) and Baun, Wolf (7), Baun (8); Walter and Parr. WP -- Wolf. LP -- Walter. 2B -- Midnight Suns: Coogan; Alumni: None. 3B -- None. HR -- Midnight Suns: None; Alumni: McKinnon.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at email@example.com.
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