North Pole pitches shutout, Lathrop wins with walk-off walk on opening day of baseball tournament

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 7:27 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A singular baseball game was played in Interior, Alaska prior to Thursday, taking place in Delta Junction last weekend. Between all of the high school baseball and softball fields from Fairbanks to North Pole, only one field is equipped to host competition; Newby Field - home of the North Pole Patriots.

“Oh it was the coaches, it was all the coaches,” said North Pole infielder Logan Fischer on how they got the field prepped. “They were out here at 3 a.m. one day and grinded the whole day. We came in and raked up a couple of piles of leaves and stuff, but they did it all. The coaches really care about us, it is a great program.”

The hours of maintenance paid off, not only for the Patriots, but all of Interior baseball benefited from the effort. As the lone field in the area ready for action, North Pole is hosting the Interior Preseason Baseball Tournament featuring Lathrop, West Valley, Monroe, Delta, Hutch and the Patriots.

North Pole opened the three-day consolation tournament with Delta and made the most of the first game on their home diamond with a 6-0 victory.

Conner Lancer threw 5 innings of one-hit ball, striking out six in the process for the win, before Jake Dawley stepped in to close out the final two innings as the duo combined for a two-hit shutout.

The Patriots got rolling offensively in the 2nd inning, sparked by Noah Perkins’ two-run single to score Riley Perry and Ethan Frollo. A Delta balk with the bases loaded scored a third run, before a fielder’s choice brought home Perkins for a four-run inning. The next frame, North Pole’s Nick Jones poked a 2RBI hit to plate Perry and Frollo once more, concluding the scoring for the contest.

“Conner [Lancer] had a heck of a game, pitched a gem,” added Fischer. “We were excited, we came out on the field hungry. We have a really good connection out here, we have all played ball with each other since we were like 9, it’s been fun with them.”

Lancer and Ethan Clifford each collected one of North Pole’s five on the day.

Both of Delta’s hits came off the bat of Dustin Peterson, while four pitchers made an appearance for the Huskies. North Pole advances in the tournament to face Monroe Friday, while Delta will take on the losing team between Hutchison and Lathrop Saturday.

Lathrop vs West Valley

With both programs spending most, if not all, of their spring training indoors, Lathrop and West Valley took to Newby Field next for the first time this season.

The Malemutes managed to turn just two hits into seven runs over the course of the five inning game, taking advantage West Valley’s mistakes, while utilizing smart base running.

The Wolfpack took early control, putting up five runs in the second inning alone, with Gavin Smeltzer (1-2, 2RBI) bringing in a run via a single to centerfield. But, the Malemutes continued to chip away at the deficit, scoring two runs in the third - and two more in the fourth - with Thomas Farquer (1-2, RBI, BB), John Kim and Jagan Nautiyal producing RBIs in the process.

Dylan Swarthout (1-2, RBI, BB) tacked on another run for West Valley with an RBI single in the fourth, as the Wolfpack led 6-4 heading into the final frame. The bottom of the fifth inning began with a pair of walks and a strikeout for the ‘Mutes. With the two base runners advancing on steals, Nathan Hoop scored on a wild pitch to bring the game within one run. With runners on the corners now, Fletcher Burnett crossed home plate after a passed ball to tie the game at 6 with still just one out. Farquer was hit by a pitch in the next at bat, before Isaac Kim walked on four pitches to load the bases. After Lathrop struck out looking, it was every young baseball player’s dream scenario: A chance to win the game with the bases loaded and two outs. However, rather than trying to swing for the fences for the heroic moment, John Kim stayed discipline at the plate, taking a full count pitch for a ball for the walk-off...walk.

Farquer started on the mound for Lathrop, while Burnett held West Valley scoreless the final inning and a third, striking out two batters while allowing a hit in the victory. Evan Imus’ single in the fifth inning was the lone hit for Lathrop outside of Farquer’s single in the fourth.

Caden Davis started on the bump for the Wolfpack, not allowing a hit while striking out five batters in two innings of work. Yanik Moore singled up the middle, before striking out two batters on the mound later in the game, while Kade Rowland also collected a hit and scored a run for West Valley.

Lathrop advances to the semis, facing Hutchison at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, while the Wolfpack will take on Delta as the Interior Preseason Baseball Tournament continues at Newby Field. The championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.

High school baseball games taking place in Fairbanks next week are expected to be rescheduled.

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