State Tournament: Swanstrom sizzles, Rafferty rocks and rolls as pitchers takes center stage on Day 2
Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 21, 2023
The aces were dealing winning hands Friday at Mulcahy Stadium as pitchers took center stage on Day 2 of the Alaska Legion state tournament.
Dimond’s Ryan Swanstrom allowed just one earned run in 6.2 innings and retired 13 batters in a row to highlight a 4-2 win over West while Service rocket right-hander Jake Rafferty threw 4.1 scoreless frames with nine strikeouts in a 7-2 victory over Chugiak in the Alyeska Pool.
You expected this kind of takeover performance from Rafferty, who posted a 4-1 record and 1.41 ERA in the regular season with a state-best 54 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.
Not so much for Swanstrom, a right-hander who owned a 3.50 ERA in his last three appearances and hadn’t pitched into the sixth inning all season, let alone the seventh.
But Swanstrom sizzled on the mound, brushing off some early mistakes to settle down nicely and get within one out of a complete game. In his 6.2 innings he tossed four 1-2-3 frames and retired 13 batters in a row. He needed just four pitches in the second inning.
Swanstrom allowed only three hits and one walk, with one of the two runs he surrendered being unearned. He struck out two, both looking.
Meanwhile, Dimond’s bats stayed hot with a 12-hit attack that included a 3-for-3 effort by Kenton Cooke. Eli Lipinski, Pama Brito, Peyton Montagna and Chase Mathews each had two base knocks.
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 2-0
#5 Dimond 2-0
#4 Chugiak 0-2
#7 West 0-2
Friday Day 2 of 6
Dimond 4, West 2
Service 7, Chugiak 2
Off Day: Eagle River, Kenai, Palmer, South
Saturday Day 3 of 6
12:00pm South vs. Kenai
3:00pm Palmer vs. Eagle River
6:00pm Dimond vs. Service
Off Day: Chugiak, West
Montagna tripled with two outs in the first inning and came around to score on Carson Engstrom’s single; it was Engstrom’s tournament-high fourth RBI. He later scored on Mathews’ RBI single to put Dimond ahead for good as the Lynx (18-9) extended their winning streak to seven games.
In the second inning, nine-hole hitter Colin Doherty walked, went from first to third on Lipinski’s single and scored on Brito’s RBI single to make it 3-1.
All three runs came with two outs, helping to fuel Dimond’s first 2-0 start at state since 2011.
West (14-15) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard after leadoff hitter Braden Meissner doubled on the second pitch of the game, took second on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch. The Eagles wouldn’t get another base runner until the fifth inning.
Swanstrom found his groove and got a web gem behind him from center fielder Eli Lipinski, who made a remarkable running catch in the gap for the first out in the fifth.
West’s Evan Fitzgerald was up next and singled to break up Swanstrom’s streak. After an error moved Fitzgerald into scoring position, he scored on Liam Gunn’s two-out single that pulled the Eagles within 3-2.
Fitzgerald shined defensively at catcher by twice throwing out Lipinski trying to steal second base; once in the first and again in the second. Lipinski has 22 stolen bases this season, so he’s no easy mark.
West lived on the knife’s edge early as Dimond had 11 of its first 18 batters to reach base against starter Paul Dittrich, who got an assist from his battery mate in the first and second innings, and escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam unscathed in the third. Reliever Makai Baylous was effective in his three innings, allowing four hits, no walks and no earned runs while striking out four.
West 100 010 0 - 2 3 3
Dimond 210 001 x 4 12 1
West - Dittrich, Baylous (4) and Fitzgerald. Dimond - Swanstrom, Ray (7) and Engstrom. W - Swanstrom. L - Dittrich. SV - Ray. 2B - Meissner (W). 3B - Montagna (D). HR - None.
Service 7, Dimond 2
For the second time in as many days, the Cougars exploded for five runs in the fourth inning to carry them to victory as they cruised to a 7-2 triumph in the Alyeska Pool.
Rafferty rocked and rolled on the bump, striking out five of the first six batters and keeping the Mustangs off the base paths. They never got as far as third and were probably glad to see him leave after reaching his 80-pitch limit.
Rafferty improved to 5-1, lowered his ERA to 1.23 and increased his strikeout total to 63 in 34 innings. His only loss of the season came against Lower Columbia (WA).
Pitching has carried Service (23-7) all season as the staff has combined for nine shutouts. The Cougars lost a bid for their tenth clean sheet in the seventh inning against Chugiak, which made some noise with five consecutive singles before reliever Kolby Jensen came in and shut it down.
On paper, the game looked to be a pitcher’s duel in the making between Rafferty and Chugiak ace Preston Rau, who was 5-1. But Chugiak’s defense let down Rau with four errors, prolonging innings, and exerting pain on the all-star right-hander.
Rau scattered 10 hits and three walks over 5.2 innings. He played with fire by allowing the leadoff runner to reach base in each of the first three innings but didn’t get burned as the game remained scoreless through three innings.
Things changed in the fourth inning. Just like yesterday.
Service’s Hunter Christian and Rilen Niclai got the party started with back-to-back singles. Sebastian Fournier drove in one run and two more scored on a two-run throwing error. Nine-hole hitter Carson Maltby provided the dagger, driving in two runs with a single and scoring on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.
Niclai went 4-for-4 at the plate and seven different Service players scored.
Rafferty not only dominated on the mound, but he also made a nifty defensive play in the sixth when he dove head first to beat a diving Blake Yawit to the bag for the out.
Yawit’s effort showcased Chugiak’s never-quit spirit. The Mustangs came out swinging down 7-0 in the seventh with consecutive singles by Landon Luebke, Hunter Rau, Owen Dockstader, Andrew Gruszynski and Fischer Sims.
Enter Jensen, who came in and doused the flames with back-to-back strikeouts before ending the game on a groundout.
Chugiak 000 000 2 - 2 8 4
Service 000 502 x - 7 11 0
Chugiak - P.Rau, Westerman (6) and H.Rau. Service - Rafferty, Martindale (5), Jensen (7) and C.Nicali. W - Rafferty. L - P.Rau. 2B - None. 3B - None. HR - None.