Pitching and defense, hitting and base running, the Alaska Baseball Academy all-stars controlled all aspects of the game at the Arizona Fall Classic.
The all-around showing resulted in a 4-0 record at the biggest, most scouted baseball showcase in the Western United States. ABA manager Tony Wylie of Anchorage said at least 400 professional and college scouts were on hand over the four days.
“I am sure [this performance] will lead to more Alaskan ball players finding college opportunities,” he said.
On Day 1, the ABA all-stars opened with a 13-3 win over a D’backs scout team from Canada in the first of two games. The Alaskans banged out 15 hits and got a wonder start from Bryce Swofford of Juneau.
With a 90 mph fastball in his arsenal, the lanky righty struck out seven over four innings. Alaska’s hit parade was keyed by Anchorage’s Jonny Homza and Raleigh Pigg, and Paul Steffensen of Kenai.
In the second game, Alaska edged a Padres scout team 1-0 behind a strong pitching performance by Pigg, who struck out eight, and Steffensen, who singled home the lone run.
On Day 2, the ABA all-stars kept it going with a 3-2 win over a team from southern California. Anchorage pitchers Jake Andresen and Parker Johnson combined for 10 Ks over eight innings of work.
Defensively, catchers Sladen Mohl of Anchorage and Juneau’s Michael Cesar of Juneau threw out three baserunners apiece.
On Day 3, the Alaskans ended the tournament with an 8-1 victory over MVP Baseball, a national select team with players from 20 states.
Homza – last year's Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year who has committed to the University of Hawaii – remained hot at the plate with a triple and double while also contributing on the mound with a pair of scoreless innings.
Houston Astros coaches Brent Strom and Jeff Albert will be in Alaska next month for the 7th annual Professional Coaches Clinic.
This is your chance to receive 1-on-1 instruction from a pair of Major League Baseball coaches.
Strom is the pitching coach for the Houston Astros and Jeff Albert is one of the organization's hitting instructors.
Strom has been a winner at every level, winning a College World Series title as a player with Southern Cal in 1970 and a World Series title as a coach with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
He also pitched five years in the bigs, throwing a complete game at old Yankee Stadium. This guy tossed 16 CGs in 75 career starts.
Strom is in his fourth season as pitching coach for the Astros.
Last year, he led the Astros pitching staff to a 3.57 ERA, the best team ERA in the American League and the second-lowest produced by an Astros team since the club moved to Minute Maid Park in 2000.
This is his seventh season as the headliner at the Professional Baseball Clinic.
Albert is also an Anchorage camp veteran and just completed his his third season as Houston’s hitting coordinator after joining the organization in 2013 as roving hitting instructor.
He is a professional hitting coach with a background in Exercise Science. Blending the disciplines of exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor learning and sports psychology enables Albert to optimize and accelerate the development process for baseball and softball hitters.
Prior to joining the Astros, Albert spent five seasons as a coach in the Cardinals minor league system. A graduate of Butler University, he played professionally in the independent leagues and also received his Master’s degree in Exercise Science at Louisiana Tech University.
Anchorage’s Sagan Osborne swings fast and plays fast so it’s no surprise he started fast for the Dickinson State University baseball team last weekend.
The senior shortstop went 5-for-8 with a home run, triple and three RBIs in a two-game series against Mayville State to open the NAIA fall ball season in North Dakota.
“It doesn’t take me too long to get into a rhythm generally,” he told me. “I’m the type of hitter who doesn’t need to spend hours and hours in a cage to get ready. I like to take 15 to 20 swings and feel a rhythm, and then I’m good to go.”
Osborne, of Dimond Legion Post 21 fame, is coming off an all-conference junior season when he hit .353 and drove in 42 runs in 52 games in his first year at Dickinson State.
He has stayed locked in from one year to the next because he doesn’t make any at-bat any bigger from one to the next. Not putting pressure on himself – among other things – allows him to stay relaxed.
“I even sing to myself sometimes at the plate to stay loose,” he said. “It’s just little things that you pick up over the years that allow you to be able to roll into a season on the right foot instead of starting slowly and not helping your team.”
A gap hitter with good speed, Osborne bagged 24 extra-base hits last season with 21 doubles, two triples and a home run. He already has a triple and dinger this fall.
With only 11 base on balls in 200 career plate appearances, it’s obvious he goes to the plate looking to take a hack. But he’s not just swinging to swing.
He reads the pitcher, the defense and even the weather.
“My triple was on a low inside curveball but there was a strong wind blowing across left field so I knew that trying to pull it in the air would only result in a fly out, so I tried to stay inside it more and drive it to the right side and I put a good swing on it and drove it to the right-center gap,” he said.
Anchorage’s Chad Nading inched closer to winning his first championship as a professional as the right-handed relief pitcher helped the Wichita Wingnuts advance to the American Association Championship Series.
Wichita defeated Sioux City 3-1 in the best-of-5 semifinal series to advance to the championship series, which starts Wednesday against the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
Nading, of East Legion Post 34 fame, made three appearances during the semifinal series, throwing a total of three innings to extend his scoreless streak to 16 innings.
The 6-foot-6 setup man has a 1.70 ERA in 43 games this season. He is 0-1 with two saves and a bunch of holds as one of the top options coming out of the bullpen.
Nading played college ball at UNLV and was twice drafted by MLB clubs before embarking on a pro career in the minor leagues. He bounced around for three years and then went to Japan before coming back to the States.
He was out of the game a year ago.
Now he’s back, better than ever, and close to capturing his first championship since his high school days.
Nading hasn’t allowed a run since Aug. 5, a stretch of 17 games over five weeks.
The American Association Championship Series begins in Canada with Games 1 and 2 at Winnipeg before going to Wichita, Kansas, for the remainder of the best-of-5.
Chad Nading of Anchorage hasn’t been involved in a playoff race in years.
The 28-year-old relief pitcher now finds himself right in the middle of one in the American Association, an independent professional baseball league that plays 100 games in the regular season.
With 24 to play, the Wichita Wingnuts lead the Laredo Lemurs by 5.5 games.
“This is the best group of guys I've played with in professional baseball and manager Pete Rose Jr. is the ultimate player's coach and makes baseball free and easy every day,” he told me.
Nading, of East Post 34 fame, has pitched six times in the last eight days. No more evidence is needed to prove how valuable this guy is to Wichita’s bullpen.
The 6-foot-6 flamethrower has pitched in each of the last three days, including tonight’s one-out hold to end the eighth inning in a 9-7 win over the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
“My velocity has been 93-97 mph with slider, curveball and changeup,” he said.
Nading has appeared in a career-high 30 games on the year, carding a 2.45 ERA in 29.1 innings.
Few people would have stuck with a sport like Nading did with baseball, which hasn’t always treated the Alaska ace well.
Early on, though, the game came easy.
At East High, he was a two-time Cook Inlet Conference MVP in 2006 and 2005. With East Legion Post 34 he won a state title all four years he played and was named the State Tournament MVP and Top Pitcher award winner in 2006.
He was drafted in the 36th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2006, but opted to play college baseball. He signed with Oregon State but wound up pitching at Skagit Valley Community College. After one season he transferred to UNLV, where he pitched for two years and then was drafted in the 37th round by the Texas Rangers in 2009.
In 2010, he started his pro career in rookie ball with the San Diego Padres organization.
He bounced around independent leagues in 2011 and 2012.
In 2013, Nading participated in extended spring training with the Boston Red Sox.
In 2014, he went to Japan and played with the Ishikawa Million Stars.
He didn’t play last year.
“I have to tell you the last two years have been a real test for me as a baseball player and a person,” Nading said. “After leaving Japan I sat down and thought about what I really wanted to accomplish with the rest of my career.”
Meanwhile, he changed his pitching motion more than area codes. He was all over the place, searching for the right delivery. He found the right formula in Wichita.
“I have been through just about every arm slot and style since leaving high school in 2006, but lack of success has left me determined to find the real me and chase that success I've been desperate to feel,” Nading said.
Service Post 28 twice jumped out to an early lead before fading down the stretch in a 10-4 loss to the Hailey Post 24 Wood River Wranglers of Idaho.
It happened in an elimination game on Day 3 of the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Laurel, Montana.
Service finished 1-2 in the tournament – the fourth straight year a team from Alaska won a game at the NWCART.
“As a coaching staff we can't be prouder of the way the team rose to the challenges we put before them and the compliments we received from opposing coaches and fans regarding the class, character and competitiveness that these kids played with,” Service manager Willie Post told me.
“Winning and losing can be determined by a lot of things but respect is earned and these kids made sure to leave everything they had on the field to earn it. As a coaching staff we can ask for anything more than that.”
Service led 2-0 after the top of the first inning and 3-2 after the top of the third inning. However, each time the Wood River Wranglers answered in the bottom half and took the lead for good with a three-run third inning that made it 5-3.
Service had scoring chances in the fourth and fifth inning, but grounded into double plays in both frames.
The Wood River Wranglers took a 6-3 lead in the fourth and then the game was scoreless in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
In the eighth, Idaho put the game away with a four-run frame.
Service finished 24-13 on the season, winning five games in state and regional competition.
“It’s not what you do in June but how you finish in July and August,” Paul said. “I think our guys took that to heart and when crunch time came they buckled down and grinded through every pitch never giving in. They proved they had the drive and determination with each of those postseason games.”
The Laurel Post 123 Dodgers took advantage of home field and starting pitcher Carson West on Saturday.
West pitched all seven innings as host team beat the Service Post 28 Cougars 10-0 on Day 2 of the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Montana.
West threw a 3-hitter with nine strikeouts. Seven days ago, he threw 120 pitches over nine innings in a 5-4 win that moved Laurel into the state championship game.
Service [24-12] drops into the loser's bracket and will play an elimination game Sunday.
Slugger Billy Smith and pitcher Christian Cambridge led Chugiak Post 33 to the ALB Legion A state tournament title.
Chugiak delivered a 12-3 victory over Kenai Post 20 in the championship game at Bartlett High School.
The teams came into the title game as the top two seeds - Kenai No. 1, Chugiak No. 2.
Smith had the hot bat, going 2-for-4 with a walk, two doubles and six RBIs.
Cambridge flirted with a complete game, going 6.1 innings and giving up only one earned run.
“The win was a great team victory, with contributions by all,” Chugiak coach Bill Smith told me.
Chugiak finished 17-7 and was the only team in Alaska to beat Kenai this year. The Twins won 28 of 30 games, with both losses coming to Chugiak.
The Mustangs also won 5-2 in the title game of the Chugiak Wood Bat Invitational in early July.
“Coaches Mike Gullett, Steve Hall and I are really proud of the way the boys fought all season,” Smith said.
Not even a ninth-inning nightmare could derail the Service Post 28 Cougars on Friday.
Service blew a five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth only to get things back on track and eventually score in the 11th inning to beat Grantsville, Utah, 11-10 on Day 1 of the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Laurel, Montana.
It was the sixth consecutive game decided by two runs or fewer for the Cougars, who are 5-1 during that stretch.
“I think as a team we have bonded a lot later in the year,” Service’s Nick Hall told me. “At the beginning of the season when we’d get down we’d get our heads down, but we definitely kept our heads up today and things continue to go well.”
Michael Yandell scored the winning run after he singled with two outs, stole second and raced home when Ronan Klancher’s grounder went through the legs of the Grantsville second baseman.
Service pitcher Cobey Cupp threw the final three innings to earn the win, improving the ALB state tournament runner-up Cougars to 24-11 on the season.
Grantsville first baseman Riley Jensen earned player-of-the-game honors after hitting two home runs and driving in six runs. He clubbed a grand slam to tie the game in the ninth inning.
Service starter Nick Hall pitched the first eight innings and entered the ninth with a 10-5 lead, but he was removed after issuing a leadoff walk.
Enter ace reliever Raleigh Pigg, who was lights out during last week’s state tournament but struggled on this day to find his rhythm. He walked two batters and hit another, helping Grantsville pull closer at 10-6.
Cupp replaced Pigg and immediately faced Jensen, who crushed a grand slam to tie the game 10-10. However, Cupp bounced back to get out of the inning and force extra innings.
“Giving up that home run, it did suck – a lot – but I just kept pitching. I didn’t think about it,” Cupp told me. “I either pitch and win or pitch and lose, but I gotta pitch either way. I tried to focus on that.”
Cupp faced Jensen again in the 11th inning, nursing a one-run lead. This time he struck him out on a four-pitch sequence of nothing but curveballs.
“It was nasty,” Cupp said of his curve. “I surprised myself honestly. My arm felt good.”
Service banged out 16 hits, with Pigg getting five of them. Cupp reached base four times on a single, double and two walks. Pigg and Hall combined for five RBIs.
The Kenai Post 20 Twins outhit the Cheyenne Post 6 Sixers but it wasn't enough to prevent an 11-4 loss in an elimination game at the Legion AAA Northwest Regional Tournament in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The host team scored in each inning it batted, taking advantage of 10 walks.
Kenai outhit the Sixers 9-6, with Josh Darrow and Kenny Griffin each going 2-for-5.
Griffin's two-out RBI single in the top of the first inning gave the Twins an early 1-0 lead.
Mathew Daugherty gave Kenai a 2-1 lead when he singled, stole second base, went to third on a passed ball and scored on an error.
In the sixth inning, Gavin Petterson had an RBI single to score Calvin Hills.
Kenai's fourth run came in the ninth inning when Cody Quelland singled and later scored on an error.
The ALB Legion AA state champion Twins finished the season 32-10.
“What a great season and pleasure to be part of such fine young men,” Kenai coach Robb Quelland told me. “Many individual accolades but definitely a team game and a concept from the beginning.”
In addition to Kenai's sucess in Legion AA, the Twins also made the Legion A state tournament championship game.
“Ready for next year and building on the future and progress of the program,” Quelland said.
The coach also credited longtime Post manager Lance Coz, who has been with the Twins program for 40 years.
“He’s the backbone of the program,” Quelland said.
1 - Next Page
7th Annual Professional Clinic
2016 Alaska Legion Baseball
|x-Kenai Post 20||66||16-2|
|x-South Post 4||63||15-3|
|x-Wasilla Post 35||60||14-4|
|y-Dimond Post 21||48||10-8|
|Fairbanks Post 30||45||9-9|
|Fairbanks Post 11||33||5-13|
|West Post 1||27||3-15|
|Palmer Post 15||22||2-16|
|x-Juneau Post 25||69||17-1|
|x-Chugiak Post 33||60||14-4|
|x-Service Post 28||54||12-6|
|y-Ketchikan Post 3||45||9-9|
|East Post 34||42||8-10|
|Bartlett Post 29||22||2-16|
|Kodiak Post 17||20||1-17|
Points: 4 Win 2 Tie 1 Loss 0 Forfeit
Each ALB team plays 18 league games [Top 8 to State Tournament; qualifying based on top three teams from each division plus two wildcard teams with most points. Bottom 8 to Mason Invitational]
x-automatic state qualifier
y-wildcard state qualifier
2016 Alaska Legion Championship Game
American Legion 2015 Highlights
SE 2015 Tournament Highlights
Past ALB AA Seasons
|(X) Chugiak Post 33||69||17-1|
|Juneau Post 25||66||16-2|
|South Post 4||54||12-6|
|Dimond Post 21||51||11-7|
|Valley Post 35/15||51||11-7|
|Kenai Post 20||51||11-7|
|Fairbanks Post 11||51||11-7|
|Fairbanks Post 30||48||10-8|
|Service Post 28||45||9-9|
|Kodiak Post 17||45||9-9|
|Ketchikan Post 3||39||7-11|
|West Post 1||27||3-15|
|East Post 34||24||2-16|
|Barlett Post 29||23||2-16|
(X) = State Champion
|Wasilla Post 35||63||15-3|
|Service Post 28||57||13-5|
|Dimond Post 21||54||12-6|
|Juneau Post 25||51||11-7|
|(X) South Post 4||48||10-8|
|Ketchikan Post 3||39||7-11|
|East Post 34||33||5-13|
|West Post 1||06||0-18|
National Division Standings
|Chugiak Post 33||57||13-5|
|Kenai Post 20||54||12-6|
|Kodiak Post 17||48||10-8|
|Fairbanks Post 30||45||9-9|
|Bartlett Post 29||42||8-10|
|Fairbanks Post 11||32||5-13|
|Palmer Post 15||21||1-17|
(X) = State Champion
|Wasilla Post 35||76||18-4|
|Juneau Post 25||73||17-5|
|South Post 4||70||16-6|
|(X) Chugiak Post 33||65||14-7-1|
|Dimond Post 21||59||12-9-1|
|Service Post 28||55||11-11|
|Kenai Post 20||55||11-11|
|Bartlett Post 29||46||8-14|
|Fairbanks Post 30/11||46||8-14|
(X) = State Champion
|(X) Kenai Post 20||71||17-3|
|South Post 4||62||14-6|
|Wasilla Post 35||59||13-7|
|Dimond Post 21||59||13-7|
|Fairbanks Post 11||59||13-7|
|Chugiak Post 33||52||11-9|
|Service Post 28||50||10-10|
|East Post 34||35||5-15|
|Bartlett Post 29||32||4-16|
|West Post 1||26||2-18|
(X) = State Champion