Service’s Ferntheil wins Don Rabung CIC MVP Award

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | May 26, 2012

As the most productive player on the conference’s best high school baseball team, Zach Ferntheil of Service was an easy choice for most valuable player.

He dominated opponents on the bump and at the plate, leading the 10-0 Cougars to their first league pennant since 2001.

Cook Inlet Conference coaches certainly took notice of his all-star season and named Ferntheil as the 2012 winner of the Don Rabung CIC MVP Award.

"It’s a nice way to top off a really good regular season with an award like that," he said.

As a pitcher, Ferntheil won all three decisions as a starter and picked up two saves in relief. He had a 1.12 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 18 innings.

At the plate, he hit .423 in 10 games.

"I was focused on pitching and if the batting came around that was just a plus," Ferntheil said. "I know I can hit. That’s one of those things that I know I can hit better if I’m not stressed out and worried about it."

Ferntheil is the sixth MVP in Service history dating back to 1992.

This year, league coaches voted to officially change the name of the MVP award to honor Rabung, a longtime local baseball supporter who was instrumental in getting baseball recognized as an official high school sport 20 years ago.

"I really insisted that we have to follow the same rules, and that coaches had to get certified and trained," Rabung said. "It strengthened our program. You’re not just a parent out there coaching. You had to go through a training program just like other high school coaches did."

As baseball’s district director, he preached honesty and honor.

"I told coaches, ‘Your program is only as good as your integrity,’ " Rabung said. "If it’s all about winning you kind of lose sight what you should be teaching those young kids; how to handle adversity because in baseball there’s a lot of adversity. Once you learn how to handle that then it becomes a life skill and it helps you in your everyday life."

Rabung knows plenty about that.

He was a professional pitcher for three seasons in the Cleveland Indians farm system.

"I never did make it to ‘The Bigs,’ " he said. "I was just one of those guys not good enough to make it, but at least I had a chance."

Rabung didn’t give up on baseball.

Instead he turned to creating a path for the next generation.

"I played ball for some good coaches. They spent a lot time with me and so I figured I had something to offer and I could give back," Rabung said.

In 1992, he and Earl Davis were key figures in getting high school baseball off the ground in Alaska.

Two decades later, the sport is thriving with teams all over the state.

"I didn’t think it would grow to the extend it is now," Rabung said. "It’s good for the kids, and that’s what you got to look at."

Led by Ferntheil, the Service Cougars landed five players on the all-conference first team. The other four were starting pitcher Johnny Meszaros, first baseman Garrett Brown, third baseman Trace Woodruff and outfielder Matt Illalio.

Ferntheil was voted to the first team for starting pitcher and utility player and Meszaros was selected to the first team for pitcher and DH.

Other award winners included Dimond’s Sheldon Rouzan, who won the Big Stick Award for the highest batting average [.524], and Service’s Jake Ridley and South’s Bryan Baker, who tied for the Gold Glove Award as the league’s top defensive players.

For Ferntheil, his pitching success was a result of having a good catcher [Ryan Bailey] a good mix of pitches [fastball, changeup, sinker] and a good grasp on the winning principle of throwing strike one.

"The main thing is staying ahead of batters," he said. "When you fall behind it’s kind of hard to go to your off-speed stuff."

Service and South will represent the Cook Inlet Conference at the ASAA State Tournament next week at Mulcahy Stadium.