For a team defined by repeated triumph, Juneau Post 25’s season ended Friday in grueling defeat.
Juneau lost 16-3 to the Billings Royals, the Montana state champions, in its third game of the American Legion Northwest Regional at Ogren-Allegiance Park in Missoula, Montana.
The loss came just 24 hours after the Midnight Suns snapped a 19-game losing streak for Alaska teams at the regional tournament, putting away the tournament host Missoula Mavericks with a 13-9 win. Juneau finishes the season with a 29-4 mark, which tops last season’s 26-5 record. The Royals improved to 48-16 on the season.
“They’re a good, good hitting team,” Juneau coach Joe Tompkins said. “I mean, we had two of our top pitchers (Donavin McCurley and Zeb Storie) and they were hitting off them.”
The Royals advance to the semifinals on Saturday and will be put to the test against either Washington or Idaho. The two clubs were set for a Friday evening showdown as the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the tournament. Wyoming and Hawaii played also played on Friday with the loser going home.
Donavin McCurley led Juneau with two hits while Kasey Watts added a hit, RBI and run. Watts gave Juneau a 2-1 advantage in the first inning after an RBI single and Billings error.
But it was all Billings after that point.
They tied the game in the second inning and exploded for 11 runs in the third.
After giving up a lead-off triple to Brooks Zimmer, McCurley intentionally walked Jarrett Leinwand, who hit a home run in the first inning. Dawson Smith grounded the ball back up the middle where it skipped off second base, allowing Zimmer to score and Leinwand to advance to third base. The next four batters would all reach base safely, swelling the Royals’ lead to 7-2.
Zeb Storie replaced McCurley on the mound with one out and the bases loaded later in the inning, but Billings piled on five more runs on two walks, one hit and an error.
The Midnight Suns made another pitching change in the fourth, Olin Rawson for Storie, but it wasn’t enough to slow Billings, who added five more runs in that frame.
Juneau put one final run on the board in the fifth, it would need more a few more in order to prevent the 10-run mercy rule from going into effect, which can end a game as early as the fifth inning.
Despite being eliminated, the tournament could still be considered a success for the Midnight Suns. Juneau watched a three-run lead disappear in an 8-7 walk-off loss against Idaho in the first game but turned the page against the Missoula Mavericks — who trumped the Midnight Suns 13-2 last year — with a 13-9 win.
“They remembered getting beat by this Missoula team and they came ready to play and they beat them,” Tompkins said. “They came ready to play today but it’s just those other guys are solid hitters.”
The American Legion World Series is Aug. 16-21 in Shelby, North Carolina.