Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior Philip “Eli” Crupi faced 31 batters over eight innings in a rainstorm, took a line drive to the thigh, and yet could only be sidelined by a pitch count of 110 deliveries in his final high school baseball game with Crimson Bears teammates in a 2-1 elimination round loss to the Eagle River Wolves on Friday in the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships on Sitka’s Moller Field.
“It was definitely fun,” Crupi said. “My defense had me all day, they kept fielding ground balls. I just went in there and wanted to throw strikes and I guess it worked.”
Even when it didn’t work, like walking a batter in the bottom of the first inning, Crupi made it work by picking off the runner at first base, then striking out the next two hitters.
Two more batters struck out in the second inning, another reached on a fielding error, but the third out was handled in center field by classmate Finn Kesey.
A strike out in the bottom of the third inning was buoyed by a stellar fielding effort by junior Landon Simonson at third base and another by freshman Brandon Casperson at second. Again, a runner reached on a fielding error, but was left harmless.
In the bottom of the fourth inning Crimson Bears senior shortstop Kaleb Campbell handled a ground ball out, but a fielding error in the outfield put an Eagle River batter on base. Crupi would then give up one of his two hits in the game as Wolves senior Joshua Thompson singled in senior Alexander Mullen for a 1-0 lead. Thompson was caught stealing by Casperson and Simonson fielded another ground ball out at the corner to end the inning.
The Crimson Bears got the run back in the top of the fifth inning as freshman Tyler Frisby reached on an error, advanced to second on a walk to Kesey and to third on a ground out by junior Lamar Blatnick. Crupi joined them on the bags and Frisby crossed on a fielder’s choice, tying the score 1-1.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Casperson fielded a ground ball out and Crupi struck out the next two batters.
In the bottom of the sixth, Casperson fielded another ground ball out. Crupi gave up a double to Eagle River sophomore William Lierman and hit senior Connor Lanehart with a pitch before getting the Wolves Mullen to fly out to Crimson Bears center fielder Frisby for two outs. A defensive interference call was nullified when Crupi fielded a ground ball by Eagle River sophomore Dallin Roberts to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Crupi was hit by a hard line drive, but recovered the ball and threw out the batter at first base, senior first baseman Bodhi Nelson caught a foul ball out and Crupi shook off the aftermath of the line drive to strike out his eighth batter.
“That one hurt,” Crupi said. “I am going to have a pretty big bruise on my knee. Once it hit me I knew I wasn’t coming out, no matter how bad it hurt. I wanted to keep pitching.”
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Crimson Bears shortstop Campbell handled a hard ground ball out, senior Joe Aline chased down a fly ball out in left field, a Crupi curveball found an Eagle River batter on its way to the strike zone, but Crupi regrouped and recorded his ninth strikeout.
The Crimson Bears went to the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning. Senior Marcus Underwood put some heat into the battery, but an error put Wolves batter Thompson on first base. He then stole second base and was advanced to third on a bunt back to the mound that Underwood threw to Nelson at first base for an out.
JDHS intentionally walked Eagle River sophomore Dalton Smith and junior Kamden Kurtz to load the bases.
“The guys on first and second are worthless,” JDHS coach Chad Bentz said. “We just want a force. That is why we did it. We wanted the opportunity for a force out.”
Eagle River sophomore Ryan Mullen would take the count to three balls and two strikes, and watch the next pitch miss to earn a walk and score Thompson for the game winner.
“It was definitely a fun game,” Crupi said. “It sucks we were not in the championship game and I definitely wish that stuff had turned out differently, but it was a fun last game to end the season and my high school career even though it didn’t turn out like we wanted it to, but it was definitely a fun way to end the season.”
Of Crupi’s 110 deliveries, 73 were strikes thanks to his favorite pitch.
“Definitely my two-seam,” he said. “My two-seam is my baby. Mostly I struck people out with my curveball, which was working pretty well today, but my two-seam is my favorite pitch to throw.”
Over eight innings he allowed just two hits and one run, walked two batters and struck out nine.
The Crimson Bears bats were led by Blatnick, Nelson and Simonson with two hits each. Crupi and Frisby earned two walks apiece, Blatnick and Kesey one apiece. Frisby scored one run. Blatnick stole two bases, Simonson, Kesey and Crupi one each.
Thompson led Eagle River with a 1-3 day at the plate, one RBI and one run scored. A. Mullen scored one run. Lierman had one hit.
Wolves senior Killian Johannes pitched four and a third innings, allowed four hits and one run, walked four and struck out four. Junior Thomas Molloy pitched four and two thirds, allowed two hits, walked two and struck out nine.
“We played them hard,” Bentz said. “Just so happy for Eli going out like that, pitching like he did. I am going to miss him, I’m going to miss all these guys, but he did great. Eagle River is a great team, a quality program. He threw eight innings and 110 pitches, that is efficient and that is what he does, what he has been doing.”
“Once again, all those runs were unearned, we just made some more mistakes. That is a bummer but we worked hard. We didn’t get the result we wanted but it was not a lack of effort. We didn’t execute when we needed to, but Eli kept us in the game. He has had unfortunate luck all season with run support but he has never shown frustration with that. He just goes out every single time, attacks the strike zone and does the things he can control.”
• Contact Klas Stolpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.