Juneau's Auke Bay American Legion Post 25 Midnight Suns escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning to eliminate the Twin City Twins of Kenai 6-3 on Tuesday at the Alaska State American Legion Baseball Tournament at Anchorage's Mulcahy Stadium.
With the victory, Juneau improved to 2-1 in the tournament and will face Chugiak at 3 p.m. today in another losers' bracket game. Kenai was eliminated from the tournament by the loss.
In Tuesday's other games, Service eliminated East Anchorage with an 8-0 victory and Bartlett downed Chugiak 6-4 in winners' bracket action to become the lone undefeated team in the tournament.
"This game was real important to us," Juneau head coach Jim Ayers said. "We were down after yesterday's loss (4-2 to Bartlett), and we needed some big-game momentum. We still left 10 guys on base, though."
The Midnight Suns were dancing on a high wire for much of game, and Juneau needed three double plays on defense to end Kenai rallies before they could cause much damage. Kenai left the bases loaded twice, including in the ninth inning when Kyle Foster hit a pop fly to first to end the game.
Ayers said Juneau's middle infield combo of shortstop Joe Ayers and second baseman Steve Hartrich both came up big on defense, especially Hartrich who made a diving grab to start a ninth-inning double play before Kenai loaded the bases. Joe Ayers and Hartrich also had two RBIs each to lead Juneau's offense. Garrett Schoenberger went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, and Bryson Buck hit a solo homer for Juneau.
The Midnight Suns scored first as Nick Wolf reached on an error in the third inning, stole second and took third on a passed ball before coming home on a safety squeeze bunt by Evan Scandling. In the sixth inning, Juneau made it 4-0 as Buck hit a one-out solo home run and Joe Ayers followed three batters later with a two-out, two-run triple that scored Mike Rader and C.J. Corso.
Kenai scratched out a run in the sixth inning as J.D. Pault singled home Aaron Hughes, but Juneau escaped a bases-loaded jam with a double play. In the top of the seventh, Juneau scored one run to make it 5-1 as Hartrich singled home Schoenberger. But Kenai answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning as Eric Newby hit a two-run double. Juneau added an insurance run in the ninth as Schoenberger scored on a sacrifice bunt by Hartrich.
The Twins had one final chance in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Juneau's defense held. Eric Newby singled, but his brother Dave Newby hit into a double play started by Hartrich's diving grab. Kenai then loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a walk, but Foster popped out to first to end the game.
"It was an emotional game for us," Jim Ayers said.
Wolf, who was briefly hospitalized two weeks ago with an infected knee after a game in Fairbanks, was the winning pitcher in relief of Kalen Meek. Lopaka Pavitt picked up the save for Juneau. Dominic Plasencia pitched the entire game for Kenai.
MIDNIGHT SUNS 6, TWINS 3
Tuesday's game at Anchorage's Mulcahy Stadium
JUNEAU-AUKE BAY 001 003 101 -- 6 10 1
KENAI-TWIN CITY 000 001 200 -- 3 10 2
Meek, Wolf (3), Pavitt (7) and Schoenberger; Plasencia and Payment. WP -- Wolf. LP -- Plasencia. Sv -- Pavitt. 2B -- Juneau: None; Kenai: E. Newby. 3B -- Juneau: Ayers; Kenai: None. HR -- Juneau: Buck; Kenai: None.
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