Fab Four headline Legion State Tournament

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 21, 2011

Fab Four headline Legion state tournament


By Van Williams


You can always expect the unexpected at the American Legion state baseball tournament.


Even in a year like this season when four teams have easily established themselves as the cream of the crop, there is no clear favorite because those same teams have battered each other just as much as they have beaten up the rest of Alaska.


“We’re all about even,” said Fairbanks Post 11/30/57 coach Brad Wixon. “It’s about who the baseball gods are going with, I guess.”


Dimond Post 2 won the regular-season title with a 17-3 league record, two games better than Fairbanks and Service Post 28. South Post 4 was three games back in fourth.


Together, the big four – Dimond, Fairbanks, Service and South – combined for a .763 winning percentage.


The rest of the league was .336.


“I expect things to go according to the trend at state,” South coach Chris Williams said. “I think the four of us will be the final four and I think things will be tight. I don’t expect any huge scoring.”


If there is a slugfest, though, chances are it involves Dimond.


Dimond has seriously flexed its muscles recently, averaging 19 runs over the last four games highlighted by a state-best 28-run explosion against West Post 1.


The strong finish allowed Dimond to win the regular-season title.


“It’s the first time we’ve done that in a while,” Dimond coach Brad Lauwers said. “I think it’s quite an accomplishment to be consistent over the summer with players coming and going a little bit, and to be able to win the regular season is a nice deal.”


Dimond swept Fairbanks but split with Service and South.


Dimond is also looking to defend its throne as state champion.


“They always seem to have a little bit of an edge,” Wixon said.


Service coach Ken Wooster agreed.


“I think Dimond has a really solid team. They finished first for a reason,” he said. “They got enough pitching that they are going to make it tough on people.”


Fairbanks has been on a tear of its own, having won 15 of the last 18 league games to lock up the No. 2 seed.


Wixon credited a couple unsung heroes for keying the team’s winning ways with clutch performances down the stretch.


“Besides my top three pitchers there have been a couple other guys that I put on the mound a few times and they have come through in the games that we needed to win,” he said.


Fairbanks got swept by Dimond but swept Service and split with South.


Service beat South 3-0 in the regular-season finale to win the tournament’s No. 3 seed.


“I told the guys, ‘If you come out lazy it’s not going to happen, you have to go out and take it from those guys,’ ” Wooster said.


He was much happier than a few days earlier when Service suffered a 19-6 loss at the hands of Fairbanks. Earlier this season, Service beat Fairbanks in the championship game of the Midnight Sun Tournament.


Not this time, though.


“We were flat. They handed us our lunch,” Wooster said. “Fairbanks is playing tough.”


Service is looking to rediscover the magic it had at the beginning of the season when the team started 7-1 and outscored the opposition 97-28.


South is probably the scariest No. 4 seed in the history of state.


The team symbolizes pitching and defense after holding opponents to four or fewer runs in 11 of 20 league games, including six with one or none. That’s got to be a record or something.


“Even in college you don’t see that,” Williams said.


South won the high school state championship in June and has a bunch of key carryovers from that squad, including veteran infielders capable of playing several positions.


“I’ve never in my 10 years had the infield depth that we have,” Williams said. “There have been times when defense kept us in the game. It’s the pitching-defense combo. It’s never one thing.”


South split with Dimond and Fairbanks but was swept by Service.


Reigning state runner-up Wasilla Post 35 is the No. 5 seed.