Experienced Dimond Post 21 head to NW Regionals

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Aug 1, 2011

Experienced Dimond Post 21 heads to NW Regionals

By Van Williams

 

Alaska has never really enjoyed much success at the American Legion AA Northwest Regional Tournament.

Over the years only a handful of teams have even won a game and none of the have advanced to the World Series.

But if there was a program poised to shatter that ceiling it is Dimond Post 21.

Dimond captured its second straight Alaska Legion state championship over the weekend, beating previously undefeated South Post 4 in a thrilling 5-4 championship game.

The victory continued a long line of success for coach Brad Lauwers’ boys, who are headed back to the Northwest Regional, which begins Thursday in Billings, Mont.

“It’s nice to be going down there with a lot of experienced guys who have been there before and have an understanding of how hard it is,” Lauwers said. “I think for any Alaska team, if any team wins a game, it’s kind of a mark of great achievement.”

Dimond is riding a wave of momentum into the regional, having won 27 of 32 games this season including the last five in a row.

“We played the same nine guys every game of the state tournament, so hopefully they have gotten in a pretty good rhythm,” Lauwers said. “They look around and I think they have a lot of confidence in each other. Some of them have been playing beside one another for six or seven years; some for only a year. They really have confidence in that core group that they’re going to come through for each other and I think that’s a big help to us as a team.”

Dimond won regular-season titles for both high school and Legion.

“We have four guys that are front-line pitchers,” Lauwers said. “We can win with any one of those four, and we have others that can help us as well. Pitching depth is the thing that got us through.”

Slugger Sagan Osborne, 17, believes Dimond can duplicate that success outside Alaska, especially because he and many of his teammates have played well against regional competition during different stages of Little League.

“We know we can beat any team,” Osborne said.

When he was 12 years old he was part of a Dimond-West team that got one win away from qualifying for the famous Little League World Series. It was the closest an Alaska team has got to Williamsport since Kodiak in 1982.

“That got Alaska some respect,” Osborne said, “but now I think it’s starting to slip away and we want that back and make sure everybody knows that there are good players up here in Alaska.”

Last year Dimond lost both games at the Northwest Regional Tournament in Spokane, Wash. Nerves on the big stage might have played a part in the opener against Boise, Idaho, as Dimond pitchers were uncharacteristically wild and hit eight batters.

With Dimond’s dynamic offense, the team can afford mistakes against Alaska competition.

“We know that when we’re down we’re capable of scoring, five, six runs in an inning, so it never really bothers us when we’re down,” Osborne said. “I think we came back in almost every single game at state, usually around the seventh, eighth inning.”

At regionals, though, those mistakes can send you home.

“We have to go out and play our best every game,” Osborne said.

Dimond will open regional play Thursday morning against Hawaii.

“We’re confident,” Osborne said. “Our pitching can hang with anybody in the country and we know we can hit the good pitchers because there are quality pitchers up here and we hit them.

“If we all perform we should be able to compete down there.”

Lauwers and some of his players might recognize some the players from Hawaii, having played against them in various tournaments over the years.

In 2005, a group of Alaskans played a Hawaiian team that went on to win the Little League World Series.

Some of those players are bound to be on this year’s Legion team.

“When I was 14 we played tough against a team from Hawaii,” Osborne said. “Had a few bounces gone our way we could have beat them.”

There’s no doubt the gap is closing, with Alaska drawing closer to the rest of the region.

Who knows? Maybe this is the year Dimond Post 21 breaks through.

“We’re going down there with nothing to lose,” Lauwers said.