Elite Eight: 8 players from 8 teams to watch in the CIC

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Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Apr 22, 2023

It seems like everybody is back in the Cook Inlet Conference.

Each of the eight teams has returned a handful of key veterans and some squads have their entire nucleus intact for 2023.

There has never been more parity in the CIC as the state’s premier conference is as balanced as ever.

On paper, that is.

On the field, South is still the team to beat. The Wolverines have won a state-record 47 straight games dating back to 2019.

Much of the firepower from a lineup that won the last two state championships is now playing college baseball, but the beat goes on for South, which opened the season by winning three straight one-run games.

Who was the last team to beat the Wolverines?

It was Chugiak on May 22, 2019, when the Mustangs won 2-1 in the CIC playoffs after Billy Smith drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith also pitched 5.1 innings and in the second inning singled off future MLB draft pick Brody Jessee and later scored to give Chugiak a 1-0 lead.

That was then.

This is now.

Here are eight players from eight CIC teams to watch in 2023:

Bartlett Golden Bears

Carl Colavecchio

In 2022, the all-conference centerfielder won the CIC Big Stick Award and shared the Gold Glove Award. He batted .420 on 21-of-50 hitting with 16 RBIs, 14 runs and seven extra-base hits in 18 games. Colavecchio is the second Bartlett player to win the Big Stick Award and will be gunning for his third All-CIC First Team honors as an outfielder.

Chugiak Mustangs

Jayden Steckel

Last year, Steckel was one of three Chugiak pitchers to earn All-CIC honors. He went 4-2 with a 4.12 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 27 innings. The Class of 2024 right-hander is also a terrific third baseman who batted .444 on 20-of-45 hitting with 13 RBIs and 16 runs in 20 games.

Dimond Lynx

Shane Stephan

The All-CIC First Team second baseman batted .483 on 29-of-60 hitting with 16 RBIs, 21 runs and 18 stolen bases in 19 games. In four CIC Tournament games, Stephan played superb shortstop with several web gems and went 9-for-14 at the plate.

Eagle River Wolves

Jack Molloy

As a junior, the left-hander was an All-CIC First Team selection at both pitcher and outfield. On the mound he went 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 14 innings. At the plate he batted .364 on 12-of-33 hitting with seven stolen bases.

East Thunderbirds

Austin Johnson

A three-sport athlete for the T-birds, Johnson had a huge day in last year's CIC opener against Bartlett when he went 5-for-5 with five RBIs to highlight a 17-hit attack in an 18-8 win. He had a double and four singles, scored three runs and stole two bases. He also plays football and basketball.

Service Cougars

Jake Rafferty

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound right-handed pitcher went 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA to earn All-CIC First Team honors. He racked up 21 strikeouts in 19 innings. In the first round of the state tournament, he delivered a 2-hit, 3-RBI, 10-strikeout performance. His 10 Ks were the most at the state tournament since 2018.

South Wolverines

Gavin Partch

One of the few key holdovers from last year’s 26-0 state championship team, Partch earned All-CIC Second Team honors as both pitcher and designated hitter. On the hill he went 3-0 and didn't allow an earned run in 15 innings. In the box he batted .263 on 10-of-38 hitting with 11 RBIs and 12 runs.

West Eagles

Caden Greenhalgh

Greenhalgh needed just 80 pitches to record 21 outs en route to throwing the 14th no-hitter in Cook Inlet Conference history in a 5-0 win over Bartlett. He racked up two strikeouts and faced just 22 batters, one above the minimum. He worked around four walks after getting two erased on double plays and another on a caught stealing.