Juneau Post 25 shutout Dimond Post 21, 7-0, to win their second consecutive American Legion state championship on Tuesday night at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
Philip Wall was dominant on the mound, throwing a three-hitter while striking out five to secure Juneau’s third shutout of the tournament. Gabe Storie threw a complete-game shutout against the same team the day before as no team scored over three runs against Juneau in its six tournament games.
“I was trying to work really quickly and I actually did get a few comments from the umpire about slowing the pace down,” Wall said. “That’s the biggest thing with my pitching is keeping the rhythm and just as soon I get the ball to step back on the rubber and make sure the hitters aren’t getting their timing down.”
Wall said the team’s dynamic pitching staff is aided by the players that surround them on the field.
“We’re able to pitch more efficiently because we don’t have to work around batters. You can work through the heart of the order with just either pumping fastballs or working in the zone,” he added.
Juneau now becomes the first team to win back-to-back American Legion state championships since Dimond did it in 2010 and 2011.
“They’re a pretty deep team,” Dimond coach Dan Montagna said. “I mean, that’s the most complete team in the tournament. Their record showed that and ours was right behind theirs so in my mind, we finished up right the way it should be.”
Juneau Post 25 will advance to the American Legion Northwest Regional in Missoula, Montana, which begins on Sunday.
Juneau compiled 10 hits in the win while also taking advantage of three Dimond errors. Wall and Owen Mendoza each went 2-for-3 at the plate and Zeb Storie went 2-for-4.
Dimond’s Parker Coplin allowed four runs on seven hits over four innings. Kaden Roettger gave up three more runs and three hits in a little over an inning of relief.
Bobby Cox gave Juneau a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The right fielder singled and advanced to second base on a Wall bunt before a passed ball and errant pick-off attempt allowed him to score.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Watts, who was 0-for-2 at that point, hit a two-run single and Mendoza followed with an RBI sacrifice bunt that put Juneau up 4-0.
Juneau loaded the bases for Watts once again in the sixth inning. This time, the first baseman drew a walk, but not before Gabe Storie came home on a passed ball. Donavin McCurley and Michael Cesar would also score in that inning.
Post 25 entered the tournament, which began on Friday, as the strong favorite to win it all. The top-seeded team hadn’t lost in over six weeks — posting a 17-1 conference and 23-1 overall record — after returning all but a handful of its starters from the 2017 state-championship winning team. It featured Cesar, the Gatorade Player of the Year, and other all-state caliber players like McCurley, Watts, Wall and Zeb Storie.
But then Kodiak Post 17, which entered the tournament with a losing record, stumped Juneau 3-1 in the opening round. Juneau Post 25 manager Joe Tompkins said the coaching staff took some of the blame for the loss.
“We were already thinking onto the next game instead of one game (at a time), so then, after we had a meeting we started going, ‘OK, there’s only one game that matters,’ and we started doing that,” Tompkins said. “From the coaching staff all the way down, anybody that talked about the next game, got shut down.”
“I think it was a good loss for us because I think we needed to realize we weren’t the top-dogs, that we could just roll over everyone,” McCurley said. “It was good to put us back in our place and after that happened, we knew we couldn’t lose another game.”
It’s Post 25’s fourth state championship in program history. Juneau won back-to-back state titles in 1983 and 1984. After not fielding a team for most of the 1990s and 2000s, the program made a return in 2013 and has never finished lower than third place at the state tournament since then.
2018 Alaska Legion Team of Excellence
The following 35 players were selected for their excellence on the field while playing in the American Legion state tournament. Six players and two coaches, Joe Tompkins and Jeremy Ludeman, made it on the team. In addition to making the Team of Excellence, both Philip Wall and Kasey Watts were given additional honors. Wall was named the most valuable player of the tournament and Watts won the big stick award for his hitting.
Philip Wall (Juneau), Leland Wilson (West), Balau Buckmaster (Wasilla), Jake Andresen (Dimond), Andrew Jaidinger (Service), Garrett Nevells (Chugiak), Terran Sugita (South), Jaren Childs (Service), Braden Olmstead (Eagle River), Cody Kemble (Ketchikan)
Sam Hall (Chugiak), Gage Webster (South), Austin Asp (Kenai), Luke James (Kodiak)
Donavin McCurley (Juneau), Kendell Ruta (Wasilla), London Emerson (Fairbanks), Christian Cambridge (Chugiak)
Michael Cesar (Juneau), Josh Costello (South), Declan Dammeyer (West)
Zebadiah Storie (Juneau), Ben Werner (Wasilla), Lian Lincoln (South), Justin Nevells (Chugiak), Kasey Watts (Juneau), Jake Andresen (Dimond), Ricky Gatter (East), Kaden Roettger (Dimond)
Kyle Graham (Wasilla), Ronan Klancher (Service), Bobby Cox (Juneau), Ian Frizelle (Chugiak), Gage Webster (South), Carsen Sandau (Service), Garrett Nevells (Chugiak), Anders Hocum (Kodiak)
Coaches of the Year
Willie Paul (Service), Joe Tompkins (Juneau), Jeremy Ludeman (Juneau), Derek Clarkson (Kodiak)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.