Summer is well underway but American Legion Baseball is just getting started. Juneau’s Post 25 team kicked off their season by splitting a doubleheader with South Anchorage’s Post 4 in a Saturday afternoon doubleheader at Adair Kennedy Memorial Park.
Juneau dispatched South 11-3 and then lost 6-5.
Pitcher Bryce Swofford made his mark in the opener, commanding the plate in a complete game from the mound. The 6-foot-7 pitcher looked accurate and in control, throwing 69 strikes on 97 pitches in leading his team to the win. Swofford gave up seven hits and earned five strikeouts.
“I had a lot of confidence knowing I had a good defense behind me, knowing I could pitch to anybody,” Swofford said. “We’re all a bit rusty but I think we’ll have a good season.”
Post 25’s offense gave Swofford plenty of room, but he wouldn’t need it in leading Juneau to an 11-3 win. Juneau opened scoring in the first inning when Finn Collins doubled to left field, sending Donovan McCurley home for the score. A Michael Cesar single to center field gave Juneau the 2-0 advantage early.
South tied the game 2-2 in the second inning, but Post 25 blew the game open in the third, hitting five runs off RBIs from Alex Muir, Quin Gist, Collins and Cesar; Antonio DeAsis added a run off a passed ball.
The score stayed knotted at 7-2 until the fifth, when Juneau added two more runs from a Kasey Watts RBI single and a RBI groundout from Zeb Storie. Cesar hit a two-run, line drive single in the sixth to bring Juneau to 11 runs and close scoring for the home team.
Seven Juneau players combined for eight hits in the game. Cesar led the way with three RBIs and going 2-3 at the plate.
Manager Joe Tompkins saw a scrappy, growing team.
“They’re never going to quit,” said Tompkins. “This (South) is a team that came down and won state. I am pretty proud of our guys; everybody contributed, everybody stole bases.”
Juneau earned an early lead in the second game, going up 3-0 in the first inning, but quickly fell behind as South’s bats warmed up. First inning RBIs from Muir, Collins and Storie gave Post 25 the early advantage before South’s three-run effort in the second tied the game up. South took a 5-3 lead in the third before Juneau pitcher Phillip Wall came in and stanched the bleeding.
“We had to bring Phillip Wall in and he calmed things down,” Tompkins said.
Juneau did rally late in the game behind Wall’s cool hand. With two runners on, Storie smacked a double to the shortstop that brought in Collins and Cesar to bring Juneau within one run with two frames to go.
Post 25 couldn’t find the crucial run in the end, their bats going flat in the last two innings, according to Tompkins.
“Our bats just never got hot again,” Tomkins said, adding that he’s seen some good things out of this American Legion team but they haven’t gelled yet.
“They have to learn to believe in each other. You grow up playing with each other, and then they play on two separate teams during the (high school) season; now they have to go back to being that one team,” Tompkins said. “This is the first series, we’ve only had three practices. I am very happy with the performance.”