MVP Clevenger Highlights All-Conference Team

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jun 13, 2011

If there was one constant during the Cook Inlet Conference baseball season it was Cory Clevenger coming up clutch.

When Dimond High needed a hit, it turned to Clevenger and he usually turned on a pitch.

When the Lynx needed an out, they put the ball in his right hand and he usually delivered.

It was no surprise then that he earned the Most Valuable Player award to headline the all-conference team.

When it mattered most, Clevenger came through time after time.

“I used to get pretty nervous (in big situations),” he said, “but with the repetition and playing all the time, you kind of get used to it. Don’t think about it. Just go up there and play. Just do what you do best.”

Clevenger was voted first team all-conference at second base and relief pitcher.

At the plate he hit .419 with 17 runs and 13 RBIs in 10 games, helping Dimond win the CIC title after a playoff victory over South.

The No. 3 batter in the state’s most formidable lineup, Clevenger could set the table with a base knock and stolen base or knock in runners with his ability to drive the ball.

“He’s waiting on his first home run this season, but he’s got that kind of power,” Dimond coach Brad Lauwers said. “He gets lots of extra-base hits.”

The respect of his opponents was never more evident than in the state tournament championship game when eventual champion South intentionally walked him twice with a runner in scoring position. Both times it came after the Lynx got a runner on and bunted him to second base.

“You wonder sometimes if you should just leave that guy at first,” Lauwers said.

On the mound, Clevenger didn’t allow an earned run in eight innings during the regular season while striking out 15 of 34 batters he faced.

In the postseason opener, he tossed seven strong innings to key a 2-1 victory over Sitka at state.

“He’s really been an effective pitcher for us the last two years,” Lauwers said.

He was dynamite in relief, where Lauwers leaned on him in tough situations.

“I would bring him on with two down and the bases loaded in a tied game,” the coach said. “He really did well.”

Clevenger grew up in a baseball family and was coached by his dad in Little League. He was pushed hard at a young age, he said, something he didn’t appreciate until he got older.

“He just wanted the best for me,” he said. “I know that now.”

MANZER WINS 2ND GOLD GLOVE

West High’s Adam Manzer cemented his legacy as one of the best catchers in Cook Inlet Conference history with another strong season.

He won his second straight Gold Glove award – sharing the 2011 honor with Dimond shortstop Tyler Thompson – while being named first team all-conference at the position for a second consecutive year.

“He was our starting catcher for four years,” said West coach Mark Wisthoff. “My son, who graduated last year, pretty much re-wrote the record book at West High and Adam has re-written it again.”

The senior hit .483 with a .903 slugging percentage. He was named Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year.

Defensively he picked off six base runners, most at first base and some from his knees.

“At least a few of them,” he said.

With that rocket right arm Manzer can disable an opponent’s running game.

“I definitely had to develop that,” he said. “Last year was probably when my arm got stronger. But before that it was definitely the weakest part of my game.”

Now it’s his strongest.

Perhaps his greatest weapon, however, is his ability to connect with his pitchers. Sometimes he calls for a fastball and sometimes he gives it to them straight.

“You have to know whether to push them and get them mad so they throw strikes or be like ‘Hey man. You’re doing fine. Let’s get a ground ball here.’ You have to get to know them because they can’t do it by themselves.”

Manzer is spending the summer playing ball in Washington in the Connie Mack League before enrolling at Truman State University in Missouri in the fall.

Before he left, though, he left an impression on the West baseball program.

“For the past years West has really turned around its football, basketball, hockey and baseball, so it’s really good to be a small part of it,” Manzer said. “Last year and this year, too, we just had really good chemistry on the team. We accomplished our goal of making it to state (in 2009). This year we didn’t quite make it but we tried our best, and that’s about all you could ask for and the teams that got there were really good teams."

FRITZ WINS BIG STICK

Chugiak High’s Cameron Fritz went from zero to hero in the span of a couple weeks.

After back-to-back O-fors in the first two games, Fritz tore the cover off the ball down the stretch and finished the season with a league-high .531 batting average to win the Cook Inlet Conference Big Stick award.

“Because I was starting out slow I got a little frustrated,” he said.

But Fritz picked it up.
Like, a lot.

“I just got more focused and knew what I could do, so I really wanted to show it,” he said.

The senior slugger scored 15 runs and collected 11 RBIs in just eight games.

“I think he understands the strike zone better than most players his age,” said Chugiak coach Bill Lierman.

Fritz isn’t just a spray hitter. The right-handed hitter smashed two home runs.

“He’s a gap hitter with power,” Lierman said. “It seemed like every time he was up he hit the ball hard somewhere.”

His patience at the plate paid huge dividends.

“I think I do best when I wait on it and try to drive it,” Fritz said. “If I try to pull the ball too much and get way out in front, you start hitting more ground balls.

“I like to get my pitch and I usually wait for it. If it’s not there, let it go.”