Juneau Post 25 — an amateur baseball team that plays in the American Legion Baseball League — is going for its third consecutive state championship this summer.
The season, which officially kicked off last weekend, is sure to bring tense moments. The last two seasons by the American Legion baseball team have followed a similar narrative: regular season dominance followed by postseason drama followed by a state title.
“I think that just comes from our mental stability,” Kasey Watts, playing on the team for his fifth and final year, said. “Regular season, the games don’t mean as much, we’re just playing our own ball, clear minded, and then when state comes around, there’s a little bit more pressure, especially as the one seed. I think we just need to focus on our mental stability this season and gear down when it comes to state.”
Juneau Post 25 hosts Bartlett Post 29 of Anchorage for a four-game home series this weekend at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. The team hopes to remain undefeated on the season — they swept a four-game series against Service Post 28 last weekend in Juneau.
All-tournament talents Watts, Donavin McCurley, Bobby Cox are back, in addition to Riley Griffin, Olin Rawson and others. Newcomers Luke Mallinger, Kona Ogoy, Luis Mojica and Christian Ludeman bring championship pedigree, as members of the Juneau-Douglas squad that captured the 2018 state championship.
“We don’t have the age and experience that we used to but with us older guys, we’ll be able to help them out and get them on the same track,” McCurley said.
Juneau’s 2017 state championship ended a three-decade American Legion title drought for the capital city, and also began a new chapter of Juneau baseball. For the first time since the team was re-established in 2013, Juneau was king of the Alaska baseball world. Fast forward to this season and not much has changed. The Juneau boys went 28-2 in 2018, and won another state championship.
And yet, in each of the last two years, it all came dangerously close to crashing down. Juneau lost to Kodiak in the first-round of last year’s state tournament, and fell to Service in the quarterfinals the year before. Both times the team rebounded to take the state crown.
Juneau players have earned tournament MVP honors in each of the last two seasons: shortstop Zeb Storie posted 11 hits while batting almost .500 in the 2017 tournament, and pitcher Philip Wall recorded an impressive 0.58 ERA in last year’s tournament.
Both players are too old to play now, and Watts said losing them isn’t ideal.
“We lost Phil last year and he was our go-to guy,” Watts said. “When he was on the bump, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, they’re not scoring any runs.’ So we just need to find that person who’s going to dig down deep and be our ace for pitching this year. I think once we get that going we’ll be solid, because our defense is good, our bats are good, it’s just pitching we need to work on.”
Juneau Post 25 hosts Bartlett Post 29 at 6:30 p.m. Friday, noon and 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.