Will Nicholas returned from an arm injury to throw a two-hitter over 6 1/3 innings as Juneau's Auke Bay American Legion Post 25 Midnight Suns opened the Alaska State American Legion Baseball Tournament with a 14-4 victory over Service on Sunday at Anchorage's Mulcahy Stadium.
The victory means Juneau will play Bartlett at 3:30 p.m. today in winners' bracket action. Bartlett upset the Tri-Cities 49ers of Fairbanks 4-3 in another first-round game Sunday, while East Anchorage beat Wasilla-Susitna Valley 9-2 and Chugiak edged the Twin City Twins of Kenai 5-4. Juneau was the only District 2 team to win its opener in the double-elimination tournament.
Nicholas suffered pulled pronator muscles in his pitching arm during the District 2 American Legion tournament and had been sidelined for a week. He allowed two hits, two walks and four unearned runs while striking out eight Service batters. Lopaka Pavitt relieved Nicholas in the seventh inning, when Nicholas reached 90 pitches.
"Will pitched a heck of a baseball game," Juneau head coach Jim Ayers said. "He gave up no earned runs, we made three errors."
While Nicholas was shutting Service down on the mound, his teammates were backing him up at the plate with 15 hits. The game ended after eight innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Joe Ayers went 4-for-5 with two triples, four runs scored and two RBIs to lead Juneau's hitters. Garrett Schoenberger went 2-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored; while Zach Kohan went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the third inning and an RBI double in the eighth, three RBIs and two runs scored. Mike Rader went 2-for-4 with a double and a two-run single, C.J. Corso scored two runs, Evan Scandling had a run and an RBI, and the duo of Bryson Buck and Bud Baun both had doubles.
"We got a hit from every slot in the lineup, and that was the key," Jim Ayers said. "When the offense is clicking, that gives the pitcher momentum. After we score, if the pitcher can come in and hold them scoreless that's like double-momentum."
Tom Lepley hit a double for Service, which featured many of the same players who were on the Service High School team that won the state high school championship in June.
Juneau assistant coach Bruce Scandling said the Juneau team had early wake-up calls in the days leading up to Sunday's 9 a.m. game time, and he thought that made the Midnight Suns ready to play at that early hour.
Juneau East drops opener
The Juneau East Majors Division All-Stars of the Gastineau Channel Little League had a tougher time in their opener at the Far West Regional Majors Division (age 11-12) Little League Tournament in San Bernardino, Calif.
Juneau East dropped an 11-0 decision to Colorado Springs in the first round-robin pool-play game of the tourney for both teams. Juneau East played Bainbridge Island, Wash., at 9:30 a.m. this morning. More details on the two Juneau East games were not available.
MIDNIGHT SUNS 14, COUGARS 4
Sunday's game from Anchorage's Mulcahy Stadium
JUNEAU 023 311 04 -- 14 15 3
SERVICE 000 012 10 -- 4 3 3
Game ended after eight innings due to 10-run rule.
Nicholas, Pavitt (7) and Schoenberger; Rider, Hazen (6), Ennis (7) and McGinnis. WP -- Nicholas. LP -- Rider. Sv -- None. 2B -- Juneau: Kohan, Schoenberger, Baun, Buck, Rader; Service: Lepley. 3B -- Juneau: Ayers 2; Service: None. HR -- Juneau: Kohan; Service: None.