Juneau Post 25 pitcher Donavin McCurley pitches in the third inning against South Post 4 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Post 25 pitcher Donavin McCurley pitches in the third inning against South Post 4 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Legion baseball: Juneau splits doubleheader with South

Midnights Suns remain in second place in American Division

Juneau Post 25 fell to an Alaska opponent for the first time of the season Saturday afternoon at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

Juneau, the two-time defending state champions of the Alaska Legion Baseball League, lost 8-6 to South Post 4 in the first game of a doubleheader. Juneau, which took the second game Saturday 16-2, played in one final match against South on Sunday morning.

“South is a good team, well-coached,” Juneau coach Joe Tompkins said. “Our guys decided to come ready to play the second game. So they played a little bit better than they’re used to playing.”

The Midnight Suns couldn’t generate much offense until the final inning of the first game. Trailing 8-1 in the seventh, Christian Ludeman scored two runs with his double, and Luke Mallinger and Olin Rawson also recorded RBIs. The comeback attempt ended with pitcher Gage Webster delivering a key strikeout.

“The kids were pumped up to play, they wanted it bad,” South coach Mike Webster said. “A couple kids that played since they were freshmen, they haven’t beat Juneau.”

Juneau jumped out to an early lead in the second game. Bobby Cox hit a three-run home run in the second to go up 9-1, and the Suns went up 15-1 in the fourth after drawing four walks and producing multiple hits.

Webster scored one run for South in the bottom of the seventh, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the 10-run mercy rule, which goes into effect after the fifth inning. Juneau’s 16 runs were the second-highest run total for the Midnight Suns this year, second only to a 20-1 win last month.

Juneau’s roster features several new faces this year, including second baseman Kona Ogoy. The recent Juneau-Douglas: Yadaat.at Kalé graduate didn’t want his baseball career to end with the high school season, and has enjoyed the higher level of competition.

“You really have to be on your game in practice, every single pitch of every game,” Ogoy said. “That’s one thing that’s fun. We’re all family, but there’s always that competition nature of, ‘Oh, I’m going to take your spot.’”

Tompkins said there’s been good leadership shown by older players like Kasey Watts and Donavin McCurley.

“They’re bringing everything they (were) taught to these guys, just like everybody above them brought, ” Tompkins said.

“Even some of our guys like Zebadiah (Storie) and Michael Cesar and a couple other guys that have played before, they come and help out,” Tompkins added. “They always want to give back.”

Juneau made it to the semifinal game of the BP Invitational Tournament last week in Anchorage, losing to Auburn (Rhode Island). Their 3-0 loss to the Lower 48 team snapped a 15-game win streak.

Juneau has met South in each of the last two Alaska Legion State Tournaments in Anchorage — the Midnight Suns defeated the Wolverines 6-5 in the semifinals two years ago, and 6-3 in a loser-out match last year.

The Midnight Suns (17-2) are in second place in the American Division behind Wasilla Post 35 (20-2).

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

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