Juneau's Auke Bay American Legion Post 25 Midnight Suns used a balanced offense and a gutsy one-hit pitching performance from Zach Kohan to claim an 11-1 victory over Chugiak on Wednesday, eliminating the Mustangs from the Alaska State American Legion Baseball Tournament at Anchorage Mulcahy Stadium. The game was called after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
With the victory, Juneau improved to 3-1 in the tournament and advanced to today's 3 p.m. semifinal game against the Service Cougars. The winner of today's Juneau-Service game will play the Bartlett Golden Bears in tonight's 6:30 p.m. championship game, with Bartlett drawing a direct berth into the title game as the double-elimination tourney's last unbeaten team.
Service handed Bartlett its first loss of the tournament with a 14-13 decision Wednesday in a game with several lead changes. The Midnight Suns beat Service 14-4 earlier in the tourney, but lost 4-2 to Bartlett. The winner of tonight's championship game heads to Sheridan, Wyo., next week for the Pacific Northwest Regional.
"Either way, we have to win twice today," Juneau coach Jim Ayers said by phone while watching Bartlett and Service swap leads Wednesday. "We've got to win two games to win the championship, and Bartlett and Service are about even as far as we're concerned."
By beating Chugiak, Ayers said he realized after the game that Juneau has now beaten every American Legion team in the state at least once this season. He said Chugiak had been one of the more troublesome teams for Juneau, so winning in five innings was especially nice.
"Everyone in the lineup got a base hit today and everyone scored a run, except (Mike) Rader who was mad because he died at third twice. But Rader had two RBIs, so he was happy about that. We were 13-for-22 from the plate," Ayers said. "It was key for us to have Zach step up and pitch the way he did. It gave us more options for pitching for tomorrow. They have a rule here that you can't make more than four appearances in three days, and Paka (Lopaka Pavitt) had pitched the last two games and now the first day falls off. Will (Nicholas) got an extra day of rest, and Evan (Scandling) was going to pitch in relief but we didn't need him."
Juneau scored one run in the first inning as Garrett Schoenberger singled home Joe Ayers. But Chugiak tied the game with two outs in the top of the second inning as Bobby Remy hit a solo home run off Kohan for Chugiak's only hit of the game. Ayers said Kohan threw a lot of offspeed breaking pitches, and Remy's home run came on the only pitch he hung all afternoon.
Juneau sent 14 batters to the plate in the third inning, scoring nine runs on nine hits, one walk and one hit batter. C.J. Corso had the only extra-base hit for Juneau, an RBI triple, while the other eight hits were singles. Bryson Buck had a two-run single, while Ayers, Nick Wolf, Schoenberger and Steve Hartrich knocked in a run apiece with a single. Ayers and Rader also drove in a run each with sacrifice fly balls to left. The Midnight Suns added another run in the fourth inning as Rader singled home Kohan.
Rader, Buck, Wolf and Schoenberger each had two RBIs for the Midnight Suns, while Ayers, Corso and Kohan scored two runs apiece. Buck went 3-for-3, while Ayers, Schoenberger, Corso and Kohan had two hits apiece for Juneau.
"We've been on the road for more than a month now, so I'm really happy with the way the guys came to play ball," Jim Ayers said. "There are some guys who may have wanted to get it over with so they could go home, but everybody came ready to play. We've developed a lot of good chemistry this summer."
MIDNIGHT SUNS 11, MUSTANGS 1
Wednesday's game from Anchorage's Mulcahy Stadium
CHUGIAK 010 00 -- 1 1 3
JUNEAU-AUKE BAY 109 1x -- 11 13 1
Ihde, Randall (3) and Rivera; Kohan and Schoenberger. WP -- Kohan. LP -- Ihde. Sv -- None. 2B -- None. 3B -- Chugiak: None; Juneau: Corso. HR -- Chugiak: Remy; Juneau: None.