Interior Baseball, Softball programs ready to take the diamond at Alaska State Championships
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As two of just a handful of high school sports that did not see any form of season during the 2019-20 academic year, baseball and softball programs around the state are ready to take the diamond this weekend at the ASAA High School State Championships.
What would have been introduced for the first time in 2020, high school baseball has two classifications for the state tournament this year; Division I and Division II. Neither West Valley or Lathrop qualified for the Division I tournament out of the Interior, but a pair of DII programs are looking to turn some heads in Wasilla.
The Mid Alaska Conference-champion North Pole Patriots open the 8-team tournament against the Petersburg Vikings at 4 p.m. Thursday, while the conference runner-up Monroe Catholic Rams will take on the Soldotna Stars at 10 a.m. Other first round matchups include Kodiak vs Homer at 1 p.m. and Palmer/Grace Christian at 7 p.m.
The Patriots (11-3) are anchored by senior Alex Garcia, their ace on the mound and reliable bat in the lineup. Sophomore Logan Fischer is expected to take care of some of the pitching during the tournament, while the Patriots will also lean on Ethan Clifford, Noah Perkins and Connor Lanser for their efforts in the field and at the plate. North Pole defeated Monroe 6-4 to take the MAC crown.
“We have really good chemistry this year, we play like a family, all the coaches all the players always got your back,” Garcia said after claiming the Mid Alaska Conference. “Throughout the season we have gotten better and came together as a team. I am excited to go to state and try to get a ring.
Both teams featuring younger rosters, with the Rams using a mix of underclassmen talent and ace senior Shaun Conwell Jr., who’s arm is taking him to the college football ranks as a quarterback. Monroe’s season (7-4-1) was highlighted by a 5-0 shutout victory over the Patriots, led by sophomore Gabe Agaiak’s three hits at the plate and 2.1 innings of hitless ball on the mound to close the game after Conwell’s 4.2IP-1H-0ER-5K performance.
Tied 5-5 with the Wasilla Warriors with a spot to the Railbelt Conference Championship - and a berth to the state tournament - on the line, West Valley ripped back-to-back doubles to bring in three runs, which was enough take the 8-5 victory and punch a ticket to state. West Valley will open pool play with South Anchorage at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, before facing the two-time defending state champion East Anchorage Thunderbirds at 2:45 p.m. The six teams will be reseeded for tournament action beginning Friday. Other programs in the Division I State Tournament include the Chugiak Mustangs, Dimond Lynx, and Railbelt Conference foe Colony Knights. West Valley is led by Railbelt All-Conference members Makayla Mobley, Annalee Coryell, Kayla Anthony and Tessa Lindberg.
In Division II Softball, the Interior will be represented by the Delta Huskies and the North Pole Patriots. The Huskies took the Mid Alaska Conference crown during the regular season, while the Patriots finished runner-up, as there was not a MAC tournament. Delta is set to open pool play with the Ketchikan Kings at 10 a.m. Thursday, before taking on the Kodiak Bears at 5 p.m. The Patriots kick-off the tournament with the Homer Mariners at 10 a.m. and wrap up pool play with the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears at 12:15 p.m. before reseeding. There will be a new champion in Division II this year, as the Sitka Wolves are not one of the six teams competing at state.
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