Jonny Baseball: Homza does it all in leading South to state title
Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jun 4, 2016
ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Tournament
At Mulcahy Stadium, Anchorage
Championship Game, South 3, Chugiak 1
Third-Place Game Sitka 6, Ketchikan 5
Fourth-Place Game Wasilla 15, Lathrop 5
South 3, Chugiak 1
The bullpen was hot and South starter Jonny Homza had thrown 100 pitches when the tying run came to the plate in the seventh inning.
This was the state championship game and Chugiak was knocking at the door with a runner on and one out. Maybe it was time to pull him, but South coach Taylor Nerland stuck with Homza.
“I was stoked, for sure,” Homza told me. “My arm was feeling good and Nerland said ‘Hey man, if you can do it, do it.”
He did it.
The reigning Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year got the next batter to ground out before ending the game with a strikeout, putting his signature on a 3-1 win over the Cook Inlet Conference champions at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
“When it came down to it, Jonny was still pitching well,” Nerland told me of his decision. “He’s a phenomenal competitor and he plays with a lot of emotion. When he got that last out you could tell the adrenaline was going through him. If his arm was hurting, he probably wouldn’t have told me.”
Homza, a junior right-hander, allowed four hits and two walks while striking out 10. He finished with 106 pitches.
“Jonny looked amazing,” fellow South pitcher Tommy Koloski told me. “That’s one of the best outings I’ve ever seen him have.”
It came against a Chugiak team that 11 days ago beat Homza in the CIC championship game. It also came against a Chugiak team that beat South in last year’s state championship game.
Many players from both years were on the field Saturday. It’s become a Yankees-Red Sox type rivalry. It’s special when they square off.
“We’ve been back and forth with them,” Homza said. “I think we just wanted it more because we knew what it felt like to lose to them.”
South took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Max Costello’s fielder’s choice scored Julito Fazzini from third base with one out.
Chugiak tied it at 1-1 in the bottom half when Brady Lindberg delivered a two-out single and scored on Hunter Register’s double.
With two outs in the third inning, Homza jumped on a first-pitch fastball and knocked it out of the ballpark for his first home run in his South career. He picked a fine time, providing the Wolverines with the go-ahead run and the lead for good.
“It was pretty sweet,” he said. “You just go up there to the plate with the same approach. I’ve done it so many times in my life that this time it felt like any other time. I saw the pitch and hit the ball. There’s not much I can really say about it. It was really no different than any other at-bat. It just happened to go out, which was nice.”
Koloski called it a monster shot.
“I knew that home run was out as soon as it left the bat,” he said.
South added an insurance run in the sixth inning when Matt Kley scored from third base on a Chugiak fielding error.
With Homza on the mound, it may have not mattered. He allowed only nine hits and had a 1.47 ERA over his last 19 innings in May and June.
This was South’s fourth consecutive appearance in the state title game. The Wolverines won the 2013 championship before getting second the next two years.
If anything, though, South exercised some demons this year.
“We lost to Sitka two years ago and we beat them. We lost to Chugiak last year and we beat them,” Nerland said. “It feels really good, I’ll tell you that much.”
Sitka 6, Ketchikan 5
Sitka built an early lead and survived one bad inning to prevail in a third-place game between Southeast Conference rivals.
Ky Stockel and Branden Case each drove in a pair of runs and Trevor Dalton and Kyle Fitzsimmons each had one RBI.
Case homered and Fitzsimmons tripled as Sitka took a 6-1 lead after the top of the fifth inning.
Nathan Bonck and Co. made things interesting in the bottom half of the frame with a four-spot that made it a one-run game.
Bonck, the ace pitcher headed to Seattle University this fall, finished off his high school career in style with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate that included a three-run home run.
"The ball I hit was a splitter that might've hit me if I didn't swing," Bonck told me. "Totally hooked it and kept it just inside the foul pole."
For his career, the 2015 Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year threw two no-hitters, including a perfect game, and three one-hitters. He also slugged 14 home runs – more than any other player in the state over that time.
“Ketchikan has given me all I could’ve asked for out of a high school baseball experience. Baseball in Southeast Alaska too,” Bonck said. “Traveling and housing out has blessed me with some lifelong friends out of the great town of Sitka.
“I’m happy with how it went and I know I’ve gotten better every year, as a person as well as a ballplayer.”
Wasilla 15, Lathrop 5
The Warriors broke out the bats in a big way, collecting 14 hits and scoring runs in six of the seven innings to win the fourth-place game at state.
Wasilla's Cyruss Lovell was the game's only player with three hits while teammates Ben Werner, Ryan Perkins, Nolan Monaghan and Kyle Graham each banged out two hits.
Wasilla's Jeffery Forster drove in three runs and Perkins, Monaghan, Jimmy Arend and Graham each had 2 RBIs.
Starter Hank Boyer got the win and reliever Austin Robertson pitched three perfect innings to collect the save.
Lathrop's bats weren't silent. Colin King homered and Mason Wilken tripled. Wyatt Berg went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.