State Tournament: Kenai, Eagle River win in walk-off fashion on Day 1; Dimond and Service also victorious
Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 20, 2023
Gabe Smith set the table and Derrick Jones cleared it as the Kenai Twins got their fill on Day 1 of the 71st Alaska Legion State Tournament.
Shut down for the first six innings by Palmer ace Landon Guggenmos, the Twins came alive in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday afternoon to pull out a 2-1 victory at Mulcahy Stadium.
Smith led off with a first-pitch single and Jones ended it on the final pitch, punching a groundball through the left side to score pinch runner Levi Mickelson from second base with the winning run between teams in the Denali Pool.
The No. 3 seed Twins (20-10) had as many base hits in the seventh (two) as they had in the previous six innings against Guggenmos, a right-hander who pitched wonderfully and was in total command.
Guggenmos had retired 13 batters in a row before Smith smacked a clean single to right field to start the seventh inning. The next batter struck out on a ball in the turf, allowing Smith to scoot to second base on a bang-bang play after a strong throw from catcher Bryant Marks.
Enter Mickelson, who ran for Smith and raced home on Jones’ one-out single to give Kenai its first Day 1 victory at state since 2016.
It didn’t come easy against Guggenmos, who finished with a hard-luck loss despite 6.1 incredible innings that featured eight punchouts for the No. 6 seed Pioneers.
71st Alaska Legion State Tournament
@ Mulcahy Stadium
#1 Eagle River 1-0
#3 Kenai 1-0
#6 Palmer 0-1
#8 South 0-1
#2 Service 1-0
#5 Dimond 1-0
#4 Chugiak 0-1
#7 West 0-1
Day 1 of 6
Kenai 2, Palmer 1
Eagle River 2, South 1
Dimond 6, Chugiak 2
Service 8, West 2
3:00pm West vs. Dimond
6:00pm Chugiak vs. Service
Off Day: Eagle River, Kenai, Palmer, South
Moments after the final out, Kenai head coach Robb Quelland hugged Guggenmos as the pitcher walked off the field. Obviously dejected, Guggenmos deserved some love.
Kenai pitchers Malakai Olson and Trenton Ohnemus also stood tall, combining for their own 4-hitter. Olson started and went the first four innings, allowing three hits and one run before giving way to Ohnemus, who pitched the final three and earned the win in relief.
Ohnemus allowed only one hit, a single to Nate Wilson, who got all the way to third base in the sixth inning before Ohnemus ended the frame with a strikeout.
Palmer (13-12) left six runners on base and twice had a runner picked off the base paths. Boman Marks doubled and scored on big bro Bryant’s RBI.
Smith not only set up the game-winning run, but he also had an RBI in the second inning.
Palmer 001 000 0 - 1 4 1
Kenai 010 000 1 - 2 4 1
Palmer - Guggenmos and Br.Marks. Kenai - Olson, Ohnemus (5) and Stuyvesant. W - Ohnemus. L - Guggenmos. 2B – Bo.Marks (P). 3B - None. HR - None.
Eagle River 2, South 1
The top-seeded Wolves escaped a hungry Wolverines team after scoring the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Tommy Molloy singled to lead off the final frame and eventually came around to score on Alex Mullen’s clutch base hit that extended to eight Eagle River’s winning streak at the state tournament dating back to 2021.
The rally made a winner out of relief pitcher Liam Lierman, who struck out seven over his three innings of work.
This wasn’t the same South team that lost 18-1 to Eagle River one week ago. Terry Dannenbring’s ‘Baby Brigade’ played with guts against the two-time defending state champion Wolves.
No. 8 seed South (10-15) cut down a runner at the plate in the first inning on a nice throw from third baseman Robert Hughes to catcher Caleb Bonin. Bonin later threw out a baserunner trying to steal second.
South tied the game in the top of the seventh on the strength of speedy Braun Precosky, who led off with a walk, stole two bases and scored on a wild pitch.
Eagle River (22-8) prevailed in the Denali Pool matchup, thanks to pitching and defense.
Molloy started on the mound and threw four shutout frames with six strikeouts before giving way to Lierman. The two hurlers recorded 13 of 21 outs via the K.
Catcher Jack Mullen threw out a base runner attempting to swipe second. He also executed a sac bunt to move Molloy into scoring position in the seventh.
On a side note, Eagle River's Landon Hudson showed no obvious fracture on X-ray after taking a line drive off his wrist at Tuesday's Legion All-Star Game.
South 000 000 1 - 1 4 0
Eagle River 000 100 1 - 2 5 1
South - Precosky, Lawrence (4), Peterson (6) and Bonin. Eagle River - T.Molloy, Lierman (5) and J.Mullen. W - Lierman. L - Peterson. 2B - Hughes 2 (S), R. Mullen (ER). 3B - None. HR - None.
Dimond 6, Chugiak 2
In another game that was tied 1-1 after four innings, the Lynx broke free in the fifth inning and broke away with four runs in the seventh to beat Chugiak 6-2 in in the Alyeska Pool.
Carson Engstrom had the big hit, lacing a three-run double into the right center gap with the bases loaded to give the Lynx their first win over Chugiak at state since 2018.
Eli Lipinski was lights out across six innings on the mound, allowing three hits and one unearned run while striking out six for No. 3 seed Dimond (17-9).
Lipinski also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a triple and two runs. He kickstarted the seventh-inning rally with a leadoff single; moments later he got to third base on an error and helped Pama Brito reach base after baiting a throw on a fielder’s choice.
With runners at the corners, Peyton Montagna was intentionally walked on a 3-0 count to get to Engstrom, a left-handed hitter who ripped one into the gap for his only hit in four trips to the plate.
Aiden Ray’s sac fly scored Engstrom with the fourth run of the inning as Dimond’s lead swelled to 6-1. Relief pitcher Chase Mathews got the final three outs to seal the deal.
Chugiak center fielder Blake Yawit went 2-for-3 and made a nice diving catch in the sixth to rob Caleb Cooke of a base hit.
Jayden Steckel allowed just four hits and one earned run over 4.1 innings before leaving on a pitch count for the No. 4 seed Mustangs (17-8).
Chugiak fell behind 2-1 on a passed ball before the bullpen let it get away.
Dimond 001 010 4 - 6 8 2
Chugiak 001 000 1 - 2 4 3
Dimond - Lipinski, Mathews (7) and Swanstrom. Chugiak - Steckel, Morgan (5), G.Gruszynski (7), Thomas (7) and H.Rau. W - Lipinski. L - Steckel. 2B - Engstrom (D). 3B - Lipinski (D). HR - None.
Service 8, West 2
The No. 2 seed Cougars crushed three doubles and scored five runs in the fourth inning to pull away for an 8-2 victory in the Alyeska Pool.
Service (22-7) finished with five extra-base hits, getting a pair of doubles from Andrew Hickman and a triple from Carson Maltby. It was more than enough for a pitching staff that faced four or fewer batters in five of the seven innings.
Hunter Christian started and went the first four innings, allowing three hits and two runs while striking out four. Landon Martindale picked it up from there, throwing 2.2 scoreless frames with five punchouts. Trey Maltby got the final out.
Hickman, Coen Niclai and Rilen Niclai each drilled doubles in the fifth inning while Carson Maltby, Jake Rafferty, Chase Mascelli, Hunter Christian and Rilen Niclai had RBIs.
Hickman doubled and scored again in the sixth inning. Mascelli finished 3-for-4 to lead the 13-hit attack as eight of nine starters got a base hit.
No. 7 seed West (14-14) took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run pop up double by Evan Fitzgerald. Starter Liam Gunn held Service to just one run over the first three innings as he stranded six runners on base.
West 000 200 0 - 2 5 3
Service 001 520 x - 8 13 0
West - Gunn, Baylous (4), A.Clendaniel (5), Zieserl (6) and Fitzgerald. Service - Christian, Martindale (5), T.Maltby (7) and C.Niclai. 2B - A.Hickman 2 (S), Halliburton (W), Fitzgerald (W), C.Niclai (S), R.Niclai (S). 3B - C.Maltby (S). HR - None.