Post 25 storms to top seed in state tourney

On their way to the top seed in Alaska’s American Legion Baseball league, Juneau’s Post 25 closed out their last four regular season games with style. A no-hitter from pitcher Bryce Swofford, a shutout from Phillip Wall and a grand slam by Finn Collins gave Juneau all the confidence they need heading into the July 26 state tournament in Anchorage.

In their first three games this weekend, Post 25 notched 15-0 and 12-0 wins against Kodiak Post 17 behind Swofford and Wall’s pitching and an 18-1 rout of Bartlett Post 29.

Collins hit his grand slam off a 1-1 count in the fourth inning of their second game against Kodiak.

In contrast to those struts, a desperate Eagle River team kept Post 25 honest in the final game of the season, a Saturday afternoon tilt which tested Juneau’s will in a back and forth game.

Eagle River came into that game needing a win to tie East Post 34 for the fourth spot in the National Division. Juneau had already secured the number one seed and had little to play for beyond pride and the momentum of their 14-game win streak.

In the end Post 25 extinguished Eagle River 10-7. Though Juneau had nothing on the line, coach Joe Tompkins was happy to see his team fight.

“Our team knew and felt that they can win,” Tompkins said in a phone interview after the game. “(It was) good for us to get in that predicament to see what’s in their tank.”

Juneau streaked to a 4-0 lead by the third inning — with RBIs coming from Michael Cesar, Kasey Watts and Swofford — before Eagle River struck back with a five-run third inning. Post 25 countered with three runs in the fourth, retaking the lead, but Eagle River refused to let Juneau get comfortable, threatening Post 25 in the fifth inning by closing the gap 8-7 with two frames to go.

In the sixth, Jake Tanner scored after tagging up on a fly out and Collins added an RBI off a double to center field to bring in Donavin McCurley and close scoring 10-7.

What does Post 25 need to transfer their regular-season momentum into Tuesday’s state tournament? Short memories, if you ask Tompkins.

”We told them you can’t take anybody lightly. This is a tournament; everybody is starting at 0-0. We (the coaches) can’t play it for them them and everybody is shooting for us as the number one seed,” Tompkins said.

The American Legion Alaska State Tournament is an eight team, true double elimination tournament. Any team with one loss drops to the losers bracket with an opportunity to play their way to the championship. Losers and winners bracket champions will face off in the state championship Saturday, July 30 at 3 p.m. If a team suffers their first loss in that game, a second, 6:30 p.m. championship game will be necessary to decide a winner.

• Contact Kevin Gullufsen at kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com or call (907) 523-2228.

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