A battered and bruised Juneau American Legion Post 25 Midnight Suns baseball team put together a late rally, but fell to the Kenai Twin City Twins 7-5 Tuesday afternoon in the District 2 American Legion tournament at Wasilla's McManus Field.
The loss left Juneau in third place. Fairbanks Tri-Cities 49ers defeated Kenai, 13-6, for the championship.
"We played a great game," Juneau head coach Jim Ayers said. "We were basically wounded, but we still scored three runs in the ninth and had the tying run on first. We battled pretty well. We just had no more pitching."
In Sunday's game against Fairbank, Juneau lost pitchers Will Nicholas, who suffered a pulled pronator muscles in his pitching arm, and Evan Scandling, who was hit by a pitch on an elbow he'd fractured two years earlier. Since two more of Juneau's six pitchers were injured before Sunday's game, that left only Lopaka Pavitt and Kalen Meek with healthy arms - and Meek had pitched in Juneau's last two games.
Kenai scored four runs in the second inning in a rally keyed by an RBI double by Cory Janson and a two-run single by Aaron Hughes. Kenai added another run in the fourth as Janson scored on a sacrifice fly by David Newby, and Kenai made it 6-0 in the sixth when Janson singled home Gresham Oliver. That's when Juneau started to battle back.
Juneau scored two runs in the seventh inning as C.J. Corso hit a two-run single to drive in Steve Hartrich and Nick Wolf, who both drew two-out walks and moved up a base when Bud Baun singled to load the bases. Kenai scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth as Newby doubled and later scored on a passed ball. Then Juneau had a two-out, three-run rally in the bottom of the inning keyed by a two-run triple by Joe Ayers, who came around to score on error when Kenai overthrew third base. Scandling and Bryson Buck both singled, but the rally ended when Zach Kohan flew out to right to end the game.
"We were down 6-0, and they started talking about seven-running us," Jim Ayers said, referring to the rule where a game ends when one team leads by seven runs after seven innings. "We said they're not going to seven-run us, and that's when we got our offense going."
Juneau moves on to the Alaska State American Legion Baseball Tournament and will play Service at 9 a.m. on Saturday to open the double-elimination tourney. Juneau expects to have several of its injured players ready for the state tournament, and Ayers expects the return of catcher Garrett Schoenberger, who left the district tournament to return to Arizona State University so he could take a summer school finance class final.
"I think we're capable of winning it, but it's a question of who's healthy for the state tournament," Ayers said.