Newcomers, favorites clash at this week’s state tournament

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | May 29, 2012

High school baseball newcomers Kenai and Monroe Catholic have adapted faster than a Stephen Strasburg fastball.

Kenai is just a second-year program and Monroe is in its first season, yet both teams are running with the big dogs at this week’s ASAA State Tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Mulcahy Stadium.

The Kenai Kards clinched their first postseason berth with a 2-1 victory over Wasilla in the second-place game at the Southcentral Conference.

The team is led by A.J. Hull, who was voted MVP of the league’s Southern Division.

Monroe secured its postseason spot by finishing second in the Mid Alaska Conference in the Fairbanks area.

Here is a closer look at each of Thursday’s first-round games:

10 AM LATHROP vs. KETCHIKAN

Lathrop Won the Mid Alaska Conference pennant after beating West Valley 9-6 in the regular-season finale. The Malemutes have won 13 of 14 games this season.

Ketchikan is somewhat of a darkhorse after needing two wins on the final day of the Region V Tournament just to qualify for state. The Kings upset No. 1 seed Sitka to grab the second seed out of the Southeast Conference.

1 PM JUNEAU vs. MONROE

Juneau is a staple at the state tournament, having won the most titles with four [2010, 2008, 2003, 2002]. The Bears are led by Lance Ibesate, who is a finalist for Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year.

Monroe Catholic is making its first appearance at the state tournament and will face a David vs. Goliath scenario right away.

4 PM COLONY vs. SOUTH

Colony won the Southcentral Conference title for the second time since 2010 behind Jonathan Boyer, the league’s MVP in the Northern Division.

South finished second in the Cook Inlet Conference to earn a trip back to the state tournament. The Wolverines won the title last year and will be looking to become Alaska’s first back-to-back champ since Sitka in 2007 and 2006.

7 PM SERVICE vs. KENAI

Service won the competitive Cook Inlet Conference and is the hottest team in the state, riding a 10-game winning streak. The Cougars are led by Zach Ferntheil, won the league’s MVP award and is a finalist for Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year honors.

Kenai finished second in the Southcentral Conference to lock up a spot in the big dance for the first time.