State Tournament: Lierman throws no-hitter in 1-0 win over Service for Eagle River's third straight title

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Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 26, 2023

In May, during the high school season, Eagle River pitcher Liam Lierman threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 loss and it probably felt like he was under a black cloud.

Fast forward 10 weeks to Tuesday night at Mulcahy Stadium, where the hard-throwing left-hander tossed another no-hitter but this time his team prevailed 1-0 in the Alaska Legion state tournament championship game that had to put him on Cloud 9.

Lierman not only threw a no-no, but he also scored the game’s only run in the third inning on a passed ball as the Wolves held off Service by one run in the title game for the second consecutive season. Last year they walked off for a 4-3 win.

This time they did it with a no-hitter, securing Eagle River’s record 12th straight postseason victory and third straight state title as the Wolves joined West (1960s), East (2000s) and Juneau (2010s) as the only teams in the tournament’s 71-year history to three-peat.

Lierman sliced through a Service lineup that came into the final hitting .362 as a team and boasting two of the state’s most productive offensive stars in Jake Rafferty and Coen Niclai.

The southpaw silenced the Service bats, with Niclai being the only batter who had any success. He walked twice and barreled up one ball, lofting a high flyball to center field. It was the only flyout Lierman allowed. Otherwise, it was a steady diet of groundballs and strikeouts as the Wolves’ ace was in total shutdown mode.

Lierman struck out six and got four more outs on squibbers back to the mound, a sign of how difficult his pitchers were to square up.

This was the first no-hitter at the state tournament since 1992, when East’s Trajan Langdon, Sean Snowball and Ryan Hiller combined for a no-no in an 8-1 win over Kodiak.

For the last solo no-hitter, you must go all the way back to 1985, when Kodiak’s Bobby Blair fired a no-hitter in a 10-1 win over East. 

In other words, it was a historic performance by Lierman.

If there was a debate about who the best pitcher in Alaska was before this game, there isn’t any more. Lierman put that discussion to rest after throwing a no-hitter when it mattered most. He finished the tournament with a 2-0 record and did not give up a hit in 10 innings across two appearances to win the Top Pitcher Award.

Three times Service got the leadoff batter on base with a walk or hit by pitch, and all three times the Cougars executed a sac bunt to move the runner into scoring position. Get ‘em on, get ‘em over and get ‘em in is their MO, but they could never get the run home. 

In the third, Landon Martindale was stranded on third base. In the sixth, Rafferty was thrown out at third by Eagle River catcher Dallin Roberts after trying to advance on a pitch that skipped away. In the seventh, Rilen Niclai was doubled up at second after Kolby Jensen’s line drive was caught and flipped to the shortstop covering for a game-ending double play.

It was a brutal defeat for Rafferty, who lost on a passed ball. The rocket right-hander allowed four hits and three walks while striking out five. He allowed just three runners to reach second base.

In the third, Lierman drew a leadoff walk, went to second on Ryan Mullen’s sac bunt and advanced to third on Gunner Mountcastle’s groundball to second. 

Rafferty threw a fastball off the plate to cleanup hitter Alex Mullen that catcher Coen Niclai couldn't handle as it deflected off his glove, allowing Lierman to scoot home. Rafferty got Mullen to ground out on the very next pitch.

The Service pitcher threw three scoreless frames to end the game and finished the tournament with a 1-1 record and 0.68 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 innings.

Mullen was named the tournament’s Big Stick Award winner after hitting .333 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. In the awards ceremony, it was revealed that the Big Stick Award will be named after Tony Wylie, an iconic coach and scout in Alaska who passed away last year. 

Service’s Hunter Christian won the Ron LaPorte Most Valuable Player Award, a rarity for a player from a losing team. But he was overall the most dominant player in the six-day tournament.

The infielder had a 1.000 fielding percentage on 11 defensive chances. He batted .375 on 6-for-16 hitting with a tournament-best seven RBIs. At pitcher he went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 11 innings and threw his team's first shutout at the state tournament in 25 years.

Service shortstop Chase Mascelli won the Gold Glove Award; his dad Danny was a Gold Glove infielder for Bartlett in the 1990s.

Eagle River head coach Bill Lierman captured his ninth career Legion title, having won three as a player at Chugiak, three as a coach at Chugiak and now three as a coach for the Wolves.

Lierman will lead Eagle River (26-8) back to the Northwest Regional in Gillette, Wyoming, where last year the Wolves became the 16th Alaska team since 1954 to pick up a win in the tournament that serves as a qualifier for the Legion World Series.

Alaska Wins @ Northwest Regional Since 1954
1973 – Fairbanks 10-6 Sheridan (WY)
1975 – Fairbanks 9-8 Great Falls (MT)
1976 – East 9-8 Billings (MT)
1980 – East 5-3 Billings (MT)
1981 – Bartlett 10-7 Casper (WY)
1983 – Juneau 6-5 Laramie (WY)
1983 – Juneau 15-7 Idaho (ID)
1986 – Dimond 2-1 Idaho Falls (ID)
1996 – Chugiak 17-7 Casper (WY)
1997 – Service 7-3 Sheridan (WY)
1998 – Chugiak 4-3 Missoula (MT)
2001 – Service 11-3 Sheridan (WY)
2003 – East 9-6 Whitefish (MT)
2009 – South 5-4 Cheyenne (WY)
2018 – Juneau 13-9 Missoula (MT)
2022 – Eagle River 3-2 Fort Collins (CO)

Alaska is one of four states that has never sent a team to the World Series, with the others being Vermont, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Service (25-8) will represent Alaska at the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Havre, Montana.

At last year’s NWCART, Rafferty and two relievers combined for a shutout as Service beat host Vernal, Utah, 7-0 on Day 1. It was the first shutout for an Alaska team at a regional tournament since 2014. That win coupled with Eagle River's victory in Wyoming was the first time since Alaska started sending teams to both Legion tournaments in 1998 that the state had two teams victorious at different regionals.

Service 000 000 0 – 0 0 1
Eagle River 001 000 x – 1 4 0
Service – Rafferty and C.Niclai. Eagle River – Lierman and Roberts. W – Lierman. L – Rafferty. 2B – None. 3B – None. HR – None.