West Valley stuns Southeast champ on Day 1 of state tourney

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jun 4, 2015

Mark Wade has never been so happy to lose a bet.

The West Valley baseball coach from Fairbanks challenged his players before Thursday’s opening round of the ASAA state tournament against Southeast Conference champion Ketchikan.

He bet them they couldn’t win to spark their competitive spirit. Call him crazy, but it worked.

West Valley won 4-0 at Mulcahy Stadium to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2011.

“I kept asking them after every half inning, ‘Can you play with these guys?’” Wade told me. “And their answer was, ‘We can beat them.’”

Tyler Christmann pitched a 7-hit shutout and Connor Soden, Trenton Woods and Blake Swarthout each had RBIs to make sure the Wolfpack dined out on the town Thursday night.

“I promised the kids,” Wade said. “I don’t have to pay up very often, but I’m taking them to the steakhouse tonight.”

Christmann deserved filet mignon.

“A whole cow,” cracked Wade.

The senior pitcher was sensational, striking out six batters and shutting down a Ketchikan team that came into state with a tournament-high 18 victories and Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year Nathan Bonck [1-for-3, double].

“When he’s on the mound my team takes on a different persona,” Wade said. “Those kids get out there and believe they can beat anybody.”


Tommy Koloski fired a 3-hit shutout, Lian Lincoln drove in the game’s only run and the Wolverines marched into the final four for the third consecutive year.

But, really, this game came down to one play.

Nolan Monaghan was thrown out at home after a broken squeeze play in the bottom of the seventh inning. Monaghan had a terrific game, pitching a 5-hitter and leading off the seventh with a double; it was the game’s only extra-base hit.

He was sacrificed to third base after a bunt and then was tagged out at the plate by catcher Julito Fazzini after Koloski threw a high fastball.

“I saw him running, but I had already started my wind up and so I just rushed my second half to just get it down and over the plate,” Koloski told me. “I was just focused on getting it to where the hitter couldn’t touch it, so I just threw it high and it worked out for us.”

Koloski struck out seven and walked none. He threw only fastballs and sliders, he said. His command was spot on.

“I missed a few spots here and there, but mostly I was on point,” he said. “That’s the one thing I’ve been working on with pitching, getting on my target.”

Lincoln’s single in the fifth inning scored Matt Kley from second base.


Freshman Michael Cesar continued to be big bat for the Crimson Bears, walking twice and driving in three runs, as they cruised past the Mid Alaska champions in the morning game.

Bryce Swofford had a nice day, going 2-for-3 with three runs and a pair of RBIs.

Juneau pitcher Nathan Klein allowed only three base runners over four innings of work. Reliever Jacob Thibodeau cleaned up the fifth and final inning.

The Crimson Bears broke the game open with a 7-run third inning.

For the game they managed 15 runs on five hits and 13 walks.

Lathrop’s James Kardash managed two of his team’s three hits.


After the first three games of the day ended with shutouts, the Cook Inlet Conference champions joined the party too.

Senior Sam Hanson remained undefeated on the season as he tossed a 2-hitter with four walks and four strikeouts in the nightcap. He is now 3-0.

Vander Lekites, Charlie Bucolo and Jake Kindred were the only players to each have at least one hit, one run and one RBI. 

Hanson also swung the ball well, going 2-for-4 with a double.

The Mustangs enjoyed a 4-0 edge in doubles and a 6-2 advantage in stolen bases. They also played error-free baseball.

Kodiak starter Jakob Arnold carried a shutout into the fifth inning.

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.