Juneau Post 25’s Oliver Mendoza warms up at the American Legion state tournament in Anchorage on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau Post 25’s Oliver Mendoza warms up at the American Legion state tournament in Anchorage on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire File)

Heartbreak in Lewiston: Wyoming walk-off ends Juneau Legion season

Juneau 1-5 at regional play in last three years

The Juneau Post 25 baseball team was on the wrong end of a miracle comeback Thursday morning at the American Legion Northwest Regional Tournament.

Juneau, who defended its 2017 and 2018 state championships last week with late-game rallies, gave up six runs in the seventh inning to lose 9-8 to Casper Post 2 at Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho. It was the fourth one-run game the Midnight Suns had played since postseason play began last week, having won their previous three such contests.

“We had a good cushion right up into the bottom of the seventh and then our pitching staff just pretty much ran out of gas and couldn’t hit the strike zone,” Juneau coach Joe Tompkins said.

Juneau lost 4-0 on Wednesday to the Oregon state champion Medford Mustangs in the tournament opener.

Kasey Watts led the team with three RBIs, and together with Christian Ludeman (3-for-4), accounted for about half of the Midnight Suns’ hits. Corbin Kirk lead Casper with four RBIs and was one of three Oilers with multiple hits.

Donavin McCurley pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned), three hits and three walks. Brock McCormick and Olin Rawson came in as relievers in the final two innings.

“My approach is just throw strikes and control the tempo of the game,” McCurley said.

Casper’s big seventh inning was fueled by three doubles and four walks. Juneau had four straight opportunities to clinch the win with an additional out, but each time those outs eluded the Alaska state champs.

Casper, who came to the plate in the seventh trailing 8-3, tied the game on a hit-batsman with the bases loaded. The Oilers then won via walk-off passed ball on the fourth pitch to Adam Julian.

Tompkins said Wyoming’s bats put extra pressure on shortstops Gabe Storie and McCurley.

“Those guys were hitting the ball well and we had some really, really good defensive plays,” Tompkins said. “I’m not taking anything away from Wyoming, they’re a good ball club, but we had some good shortstop plays that Donavin and Gabe both went back into center field and caught.”

It was Juneau’s third consecutive trip to the regional tournament, which serves as one of the qualifiers for the American Legion World Series. The Midnight Suns’ lone tournament victory — a 13-9 win over Missoula last year — ended a 10-year, 19-game losing streak by Alaska Legion AA teams at the Northwest Regional.

The tournament featured the state championship clubs from six states: Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.

The Midnight Suns finish their 2019 campaign at 29-7, tying their win total from last season, 29-4.

“I think we played to our potential, but our mental toughness toward the end of the game wasn’t there,” McCurley said. “But I’m proud of the way that we played in that first game only getting one hit and then coming out in the second game and getting 13 hits, that really proves how good of a ball club that we are.”

American Legion Northwest Regional Tournament

Wednesday games

Medford (OR) 4, Juneau (AK) 0

Bozeman (MT) 5, Bellevue (WA) 2

Idaho Falls (ID) 10, Casper (WY) 0

Kennewick (WA) 8, Lewiston (ID) 5

Thursday games

Casper (WY) 9, Juneau (AK) 8

Bellevue (WA) 10, Lewiston (ID), 0

Medford (OR) vs. Idaho Falls (ID), 4 p.m.

Bozeman (MT) vs. Kennewick (WA), 7 p.m.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.

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