Service and South to meet for state championship Saturday

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jun 1, 2013

With 13 seniors back this season, the Service Cougars expected to reach the state championship game.

The South Wolverines entered the year in a rebuilding mode, yet they molded themselves into a group of winners.

Now they will play for the ultimate prize.

Service [10-2] and South [11-4] will meet Saturday at 4 p.m. in the title game of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Tournament at Mulcahy Stadium.

The Cougars got there after beating defeating state champion Juneau-Douglas 12-0 in the late semifinal. 

Starter Johnny Meszaros pitched a 3-hitter with 10 strikeouts, his second lights-out performance in a week.

Last Friday, Meszaros struck out 17 in a 3-0 win over West that clinched the Cook Inlet Conference championship. Tonight he was just as good.

“It’s huge,” said Service coach Ken Wooster. “Johnny has really matured, that’s the only way you can look at it. Something started clicking and he’s put together two really fine performances.”

Meszaros has 27 strikeouts in his last 13 innings of work while giving up just four hits and one walk.

“What was really neat for us, as a pitcher, he needed to believe that he could do this,” Wooster said. “We always believed he could do it. But I think he proved it to himself that he really could do this and really showed all the hard work he put in. He really earned it.”

Service – winners of four in a row – jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning against Juneau, keyed by Connor Duff’s two-run double.

All-star Matt Ilalio went 3 for 5 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. Michael Shuler drove in two runs and Braden Mitchell scored three times.

In the championship game Service will play a scorching South team that has won seven straight games.

“This is probably the most cohesive group of kids I’ve ever had,” South manager Russ Baker said. “This is really a team. The role players, the backups, they know they have to help the starters get ready for the game and everybody has accepted their role and we just play baseball.”

The Wolverines beat Kodiak 8-2 in the early semifinal behind pitchers Brad Butcher and Sage Dudick, who scattered eight hits over seven innings.

South managed just four base knocks, but benefitted from timely hitting and three Kodiak errors.

Nick Jensen had two hits and scored two runs. He also flashed some glove love in the infield. Connor Farnsworth also scored twice for the Wolverines.

South won the state title in 2011 and was one of the favorites last year but lost in the semifinals. Ten of those players graduated, leaving the door open for new players to seize their opportunity.

They haven’t disappointed.

“I’ve got a lot of new kids that are playing at this level for the first time and I think they were lacking a little bit of confidence early on,” Baker said. “On top of the coaches telling them all year that they had to hit, something triggered a switch to be aggressive with the bat. They finally found themselves. They found an identity.”

South and Service split their two meetings this year, with Service winning the first game 2-1 and South taking the second game 3-1.

This one will decide the season series – and bragging rights.