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Wild, 49ers wrap up Legion baseball tournament, but not without some bumps and bruises

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 8:22 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -

The American Legion National Organization, the amateur baseball leagues played by 13-to-19-year-olds, turned off the stadium lights for the 2020 season back in May. However, The Alliance for Alaska Legion Baseball came in for relief, saving the season by developing an unofficial league and season that closely resembled the typical Legion experience after the player’s high school seasons were taken away from them.

Interior, Alaska’s two teams, the Fairbanks 49ers and the Alaska Wild, took the field for the first time on June 12, where the Wild topped the 49ers 8-3. Since then, the two squads were able to complete a full season, competing in over 20 games, concluding with the Matson Invitational in Anchorage over the weekend.

Wild

The Alaska Wild, of North Pole, opened the tournament with a forgettable, 17-2 loss to South Open on Friday. Alaska only collected three hits on the day, two of which came off the bat of Dustin Peterson. The Wild struggled to keep South from rounding the bases, using six different pitchers to try and slow them down.

The loss moved the Wild to the loser’s bracket, where they would meet a familiar foe in the 49ers, their crosstown rivals. In a much stronger performance, the Wild used a nine-run fourth inning to secure a 12-4 victory. The pitching trio of Alex Garcia (4.2 IP, 2 hits, 7Ks), Peterson (1.2 IP, 1 hit, 2Ks) and Chase Reed (0.2 IP, 0 hits) got the job done on the mound with Garcia earning the win. Garcia also helped his cause with the bat, going 2 for 3 with three runs batted in. Kolten Hall led the charge at the plate with 4 RBI’s, including a bases-clearing double in the fourth.

Moving on in the tournament, the Wild matched up with the Service Cougars. In a brilliant performance on the mound, future Southwestern Community College pitcher Gavin Fischer tossed a complete game shutout, only allowing two hits in the process. Fischer retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced, striking out 13 total batters over seven innings of play. Fischer received help at the plate from Hall (1 for 2, 3 RBIs) and Peterson (1 for 3, 3 RBIs) to seal the victory.

In the semifinals of the Matson Invitational, the Wild paired with South Open for a rematch of the tournament’s opener. A quick, 4-0 deficit was handed to the Wild by the third inning, but in the bottom frame, Alaska tacked on three of their own to trim the lead to just one. An insurance run in each of the fifth and sixth innings by the Cougars was too much for the Wild to overcome, as they fall 6-3 to conclude their season. The Wild finished third in the tournament, just as they did last season.

On Wednesday, prior to the first game of the tournament, Wild head coach Ray Pulsifer was tossing batting practice to his team without the use of a screen, which he says was unavailable at Bartlett High School’s field at the time. In the process, a Wild player hit a line drive directly back at Pulsifer, striking him in the eye, breaking his orbital bone. Pulsifer was immediately transported to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hospital to undergo surgery.

Ray Pulsifer, head coach of the Alaska Wild, was struck by a ball at practice prior to the Matson Invitational.
Ray Pulsifer, head coach of the Alaska Wild, was struck by a ball at practice prior to the Matson Invitational.(Ray Pulsifer)

“I took the chance and was pitching from in front of the mound, teaching my guys to wait on pitches and drive them up the middle,” recalls Pulsifer “He did exactly what I told him and I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. He was feeling horrible and I said, ‘no, you did exactly what I told you, don’t worry about it man.’”

“I went to the doctor Monday morning and he said it is at least progressing as good as could be expected. The eye swelling is coming down, the blood is coming out of the eye ball, but there is still no vision. But it is going to be a long process, we don’t know,” added Pulsifer.

By Friday’s tournament opener, Pulsifer was back in the dugout with his team. He will continue with regular doctor visits and hopes to regain vision in that eye at some point.

49ers

The Fairbanks 49ers kicked off the Matson Invitational with the Bartlett Golden Bears, where they were outmatched 15-1 in five innings. A four-run second inning and an 11-run fourth was enough for the Golden Bears to cruise to victory. The 49ers only collected two hits on the day, coming off the bats of Dylan Swarthout and Corbin Layral.

In their second game, Fairbanks squared off against the Wild for the 10th and final time of the season. Despite a four-run first inning, the 49ers could not produce any more offense, falling 12-4. Layral recorded a pair of RBI’s, while Chris Luskleet Jr went 2 for 3 at the plate with two runs batted in.

In their final game of the season, Fairbanks lost in heartbreaking fashion at the hands of a walk off hit by Bartlett. By the second inning, the 49ers lead 5-2 in a game that featured four lead changes. Ryan Young (1 for 5) and Caden Davis (1 for 2), each had a pair of RBI’s for the 49ers.

2020 Team of Excellence

Starting Pitchers

Jeremiah Eneix - Dimond

Jacob Gilbert - Wasilla

Landon Guggenmos - Palmer

Ryan Henrickson - Dimond

Noah Lower - Eagle River

Brock McCormick - Juneau

Josh McGovern - South

Lukas Wilkins - South

Leland Wilson - West

Gage Webster - South

Relief Pitchers

Andrew Buckendorf - South

Braden Olmstead - Eagle River

Chase Reed - North Pole

Catchers

Luke Langnes - West

Dylan Maltby - South

Brady Shults - Palmer

Max Wanser - Wasilla

Utility

Andrew Buckendorf - South

Henry Helgeson - Service

Tanner Ussing - Kenai

Infielders

Clayton Boyett - Wasilla

Reid Brock - South

Jacob Hulst - East

Mose Hayes - Kenai

Christian Ludeman - Juneau

Oliver Mendoza- Juneau

Justin Nevells - Chugiak

Jack Opinsky - West

Leland Wilson - West

Outfielders

Ian Frizelle - Chugiak

Jacob Gilbert - Wasilla

Ryan Henrickson - Dimond

Zach Jenkins - Dimond

Shawn Jones - West

Josh Thompson - Eagle River

Coaches of the Year

Bill Lierman - Eagle River

Dan Montaga - Dimond

Ken Ottinger - Wasilla

Willie Paul - Service

Robb Quelland - Kenai

Team of Excellence Honorable Mentions

Starting Pitchers

Oliver Brown - South Open

Alex Garcia - North Pole

Luke Langnes - West

Sam Maudsley - Service

Dustin Peterson - North Pole

Relief Pitchers

Curtis Hebert - South Open

Carter Stolp - West

Catchers

Eli Corwin Bartlett

Kellen Curtis - South Open

Coen Niclai - Service

Dustin Peterson - North Pole

Logan Sweet - Dimond

Utility

Riley Fugere - Chugiak

Chase Reed - North Pole

Ben Alley - Palmer

Infielders

Blake Bacho - Bartlett

Oliver Brown - South Open

Austin Bull - Chugiak

Jeremiah Eneix - Dimond

Damien Frederick - Eagle River

#49 Taylor McCart Bartlett

Josh McGovern - South

Harrison Metz - Kenai

Raythan Robbins - Dimond

Isaac Roehl - Fairbanks

Alex Garcia - North Pole

Outfielders

Jack Dolan - Dimond

Ryan Gray - Eagle River

Gus Jensen - Fairbanks

Gavin Oakley - East

Nolan Murphy - Wasilla

Carter Stolp - West

Gage Webster - South

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