North Pole Softball finishes 2nd at DII State Tournament, earning best placement in 14 years in remarkable fashion
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Do not count the North Pole Patriots Softball program out. Even if they’re trailing by nine runs and are down to just their final three outs of the season.
Heading into the Division II Alaska State Softball Championships in Anchorage, the Patriots were one of the lower seeds in the tournament and none of the players had any state championship experience with a roster that features exactly zero seniors. As pool play began Thursday, North Pole dropped their opener to the Homer Mariners 15-12, before being defeated by the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 16-9. Heading into double-elimination bracket play, the Patriots drew the Kodiak Bears, falling 8-3 for a third straight loss. With their backs against the wall and their season on the line, North Pole trailed Homer 20-11 in the bottom of the 7th inning, down to their final three outs.
“Inside my head I was thinking, ‘well this is going to be it’. I would be happy if we could get back three or four runs, just let the girls get a couple back before the end of these season,” said North Pole head coach Todd Schallock. “Next thing you know, got a couple hits here, got a couple hits there and now I can see the attitude is like, ‘I want to hit again’, they wanted to go to the plate. That is where I believe all of this turned around.”
North Pole rallied for nine runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game before completing the improbable comeback in extras 21-20, keeping their season alive that was once on life support. The triumphant comeback sparked something in the Patriots, as they went on defeat a conference-foe in the Delta Huskies 24-21, a program that bested them during the regular-season. Just hours later, North Pole easily handled Ketchikan 10-2, launching them to the state championship game for the first time since 2007. Though the Patriots were ultimately outmatched by Juneau-Douglas in the championship game 16-4, it was a valiant effort over 45 innings in three days to climb all the way back to the state title game.
“Every single one of the girls helped, I couldn’t do it with just the four or the five girls, I had to have everybody,” Schallock added, “There is no reason for one of them, not one of them, to hang their heads.”
Alicia Guzman and Lilah Murrah were named to the All-Tournament team for their performances over the weekend. Guzman, the Patriots lead-off hitter, batted .781 during the tournament according to Schallock.
“I couldn’t believe it, I have never seen anybody do that well in a state tournament,” Schallock said of Guzman. “I had coaches say ‘is that a senior?’ and I am standing their boasting my chest saying, ‘no that’s not only a sophomore, you get see her for two more years.’,” Schallock said with a laugh. “They were shaking their heads.”
“During that Ketchikan game [Murrah] could not miss, she was right on,” Schallock added of her performance in the ring.
North Pole’s runner-up finish was their best placement in 14 years and without any seniors, they are expected to return another strong team next year.
Over the weekend, Delta secured an 8-4 win over Kodiak in bracket play, while Emily Bevard received an All-Tournament nod for the Huskies.
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