Sitka senior pitcher Ben Turner delivers against Service during the Wolves 8-7 loss to the Cougars on Thursday in the opening round of the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships at Sitka’s Moller Field. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire)

Sitka senior pitcher Ben Turner delivers against Service during the Wolves 8-7 loss to the Cougars on Thursday in the opening round of the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships at Sitka’s Moller Field. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire)

Sitka stunned by Service in state tournament at Moller Field

  • By Klas Stolpe Juneau Empire
  • Saturday, June 3, 2023 1:30am
  • Sports

The Sitka High School baseball team fell to the Service Cougars, 8-7, on Thursday night in the ASAA Division I State Baseball Championships on Sitka’s Moller Field.

“I was expecting a lot more,” Sitka coach Ken Carley said. “I told them we were done going for the championship, but we can still look good by the end of the weekend. We’ve got a game tomorrow and if we win that we have one more. It is not first place but it’s better than nothing. We don’t want to lose two on our home field.”

Sitka led 4-0 entering the seventh inning, but gave up seven runs to trail 7-4.

“That was errors and a couple walks,” Carley said. “That is all it is. At that point they only had two hits. It’s just baseball and not fun when it goes that way.”

In the bottom of the seventh the Wolves tied the game as senior Bridger Bird led off with a single to center field and was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Tyson Bartolaba, senior Ben Turner walked and sophomore Chance Coleman singled in Bartolaba to trail 7-5. Senior Keaton Blankenship earned a two-out walk to load the bases, and senior Dylan Marx doubled to score Turner and Coleman and tie the game 7-7. A third out forced an extra eighth inning.

Service would regain the lead in the top of the eighth as sophomore lead-off hitter Sebastian Fournier reached on a dropped third strike, advanced to second on a sacrifice and to third on a ground ball out and scored on a steal at home plate for 8-7.

The Wolves went down in the bottom half of the eighth with a pop up to Service junior first baseman Jacob Rafferty and two ground balls to Fournier at second base.

For six innings Sitka played like the best team in the tournament and Turner accented that play by dominating the mound and leaving Service hitless.

“Ben did great,” Carley said. “A no-hitter through six. And in regions he threw a no-hitter there too.”

In those six innings the Wolves showed near perfect form.

In the bottom of the second inning Coleman hit a line drive to center field that caromed off the center fielders mitt and head, and rolled to the fence as Coleman sprinted around the bases for an in the park home run and a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the fifth inning Marx reached first on a one out single, reached third base on an error and scored on a line drive to center field by sophomore Tanner Steinson for 2-0.

In the bottom of the six inning Turner singled to center field. Freshman courtesy runner Emmit Johnson came on base and advanced to second on an error. Coleman reached base on a dropped third strike and senior Samuel Johnson earned a walk to load the bases. Blankenship walked scoring E. Johnson for 3-0 and Steinson singled to left field scoring Coleman for 4-0.

In the midst of that offense the Wolves defense was outstanding. Marx caught a pop up at shortstop and junior Grady Smith a ground ball at third base in the first inning to go with a Turner strikeout. Coleman caught a fly in center field in the second inning to go with two Turner strikeouts. Marx and Coleman fielded ground balls in the third inning to go with one Turner strikeout. Marx fielded two ground balls and Turner one in the fourth inning. Coleman and Smith fielded ground balls in the fifth inning and sophomore Bryce Calhoun caught a fly ball in center field. S. Johnson and B. Calhoun caught fly balls in the sixth inning and Marx a line drive.

“That was a good start,” said Carley. “Our guys just let up a little bit and that’s when they got back in on it.”

In the top of the seventh the Service rally began as Sitka’s Turner gave up three hits and Service’s Fournier singled in junior Owen Hickman to trail 4-1.

Sitka relief pitcher B. Calhoun saw two runs score on a fielders choice that brought in Service freshman Nicholas Armstrong and Fournier to trail 4-3. Service junior Hunter Christian earned a walk and junior Coen Niclai singled in freshman Rilen Niclai to tie the game 4-4. Rafferty singled scoring Christian for a 5-4 lead and Hickman reached on an error scoring C. Niclai for 6-4. Second Sitka relief pitcher Blankenship was on the mound when Service’s Rafferty scored on an error for 7-4.

“We’ve been preaching all along that to our guys that they just have to hang on until the end,” Service coach Willie Paul said. “You always have a fighting chance if there are still outs to use and they took advantage of it all the way until the last at bat. In the seventh inning they were feeling the pressure a little bit but they have been in this spot before. A lot of our guys have been with us for three years now and have been in big games. While the pressure was there they kept their calm and every base hit, every pitch that went our way they became more confident and were able to push it across.”

Marx, Steinson and Coleman led Sitka with two runs batted in and two hits each. Blankenship had one RBI. Freshman Brett Ross, Bird and Turner had one hit each. Coleman scored three runs, Turner and Marx one apiece. Blankenship and Turner earned two walks each.

Turner pitched six innings, allowed three hits and four runs, walked two batters and struck out four. B. Calhoun allowed two hits and three runs, walked one and struck out one. Blankenship allowed one run and struck out two.

Service’s Rafferty went 4.1 innings, allowed four hits and two runs, walked three and struck out seven. Christian relieved for 1.2 innings, allowed four hits and five runs, walked three and struck out four. R. Niclai went two innings, allowed on hit, walked one and struck out two.

R. Niclai led Service with two RBI. Fournier led with two runs scored. C. Niclai, Rafferty, O. Hickman, Fournier and A. Hickman one hit each.

“Sitka is phenomenal,” said Paul. “They no-hit us through six. They put the ball in play which put a lot of challenge on our defense. You can’t say anything better about them.”

Sitka falls into the consolation bracket and will play West Valley today at 1 p.m. Service advances to play Chugiak, a 4-3 winner over West Valley, in a semifinal tonight at 7 p.m.

In other Thursday action Colony defeated Juneau-Douglas 9-1 and South Anchorage defeated Eagle River 4-3.

Friday Games: 10 a.m. – consolation, JDHS vs. Eagle River; 1 p.m. – consolation, Sitka vs. West Valley. 4 p.m. – semifinal, Colony vs. South; 7 p.m. – semifinal, Service vs. Chugiak.

Saturday Games: 10 a.m. – 4th/6th place; 12:30 p.m. 3rd/5th place; 3:30 p.m. Championship.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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