Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau’s Auke Bay Post 25 Midnight Suns American Legion baseball team swept West Post 1 in a National League double-header, Sunday, at Adair Kennedy Field, winning 3-2 and 11-3 to leap-frog the Eagles for fourth place in the standings.
Juneau also swept West in non-league action Saturday (reported earlier at KINYradio.com)
“It’s nice to get two wins, or four wins for sure, especially in the league games,” Juneau manager Chris Dillon said. “Our team is a good hitting team. They all take pride in their hitting approaches and they always put together competitive at-bats. That is really the strength of our team, scoring runs.”
The opening game heroics went to Christian Nelson and Kasen Ludeman.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Nelson put a triple to the right field fence that the West fielder misplayed and Ludeman took the next pitch through the gap at first and second for a game winning single scoring Nelson.
“I just really liked the energy and the effort all the way through,” Dillon said. “In close games like that it is all about trusting your teammates and believing in somebody coming through, and eventually Kasen (Ludeman) did… a big part of that was Christian Nelson getting to third base on that ball the right fielder dropped. That was huge to get us started in that inning.”
C. Nelson came up from the Juneau single A team to fill a stop vacated by an injury to Gavin Millard and has fit in with the battle tested AA squad at shortstop, providing strength through the infield that is backed up by centerfielder Porter Nelson, no relation.
“Christian (Nelson) has been a contributor ever since coming up,” Dillon said.
Ludeman went 2-3 at the plate with one run batted in and one run scored. He also walked once.
Oliver Mendoza went 1-2 with one RBI and one run scored and one walk earned.
“His hitting approach is second to none,” Dillon said of Mendoza. “He is rarely off balance and he usually doesn’t swing at anything he can’t drive for power. He definitely is the engine in our offense for sure."
Garrison Luben, Olin Rawson and C. Nelson had one hit each. C. Nelson scored one run. Luben had a stolen base. Porter Nelson was walked twice and had a stolen base.
Kai Schmidt held the mound for four innings, facing 20 batters, allowing five hits and one run, walking one hitter and striking out seven. P. Nelson relieved for two innings, facing nine batters, allowing one hit and one run, walking one and striking out five. Luben closed for one inning, facing four hitters and striking out two.
In the Sunday nightcap Juneau broke open a 3-3 tie game in the top of the sixth inning as C. Nelson singled, Ludeman walked, Schmidt walked and Mendoza singled to score C. Nelson for a 4-3 lead.
“We were able to get into their bullpen a little bit,” Dillon said. “For whatever reason we were having trouble with their starter but he kind of ran out of gas and we were able to take advantage of the guys behind him. The guys kept working hard and eventually it paid off. We were able to string together some hits and, of course, Oliver (Mendoza) was clutch as always.”
P. Nelson followed with a base clearing triple for a 7-3 advantage. Landon Simonson hit a one-out sacrifice fly scoring P. Nelson for 8-3.
Rory Hayes singled to open the seventh inning, advanced to second on a passed ball, and two outs later Schmidt reached on an error putting Hayes on third. Hayes scored on a passed ball for a 9-3 lead as West tried to pitch around the power of Mendoza.
With a count of 2-0 Mendoza put the third pitch over the center field fence for the 11-3 lead.
The Juneau defense held in the bottom half as C. Nelson fielded a ground ball out at shortstop and Luben picked up two ground balls at third base.
Mendoza and P. Nelson both went 2-3 at the plate with three RBI and two walks. Mendoza scored two runs and P. Nelson one.
Hayes went 3-3 with one RBI and one run scored.
“He hit the ball well today and that was nice to see,” Dillon said.
Simonson had two RBI and Luben one. Schmidt, Rawson and C. Nelson had one hit each. Ludeman scored two runs, Rawson and C. Nelson one each.
Luben started on the hill, facing 24 batters over five innings, allowing four hits and three runs, walking three and striking out seven. P. Nelson relieved for one inning, facing six hitters, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out two. Mendoza closed, facing three hitters.
“I thought Kai Schmidt did a really good job on the mound today,” Dillon said. “He gave us 70 quality pitches… I thought Garrison (Luben) was good and Porter (Nelson) was able to come in for relief both games and that was huge for us as well. We only gave up a few runs in each game, that says a lot about your pitching. I thought that was a good job by those guys.”
Juneau is in the thick of the making the state playoffs despite their roster numbers falling slightly.
“It’s a weird situation,” Dillon said. “For a team with a roster of, right now we have 11 players, I feel like we are incredibly deep, oddly enough… everyone on our roster can play different positions and everybody is capable of throwing from the mound. So I think we actually have a really deep team despite the limited numbers.”
An example of the team’s depth was their use of three different players behind the plate this weekend: Schmidt, Simonson and Hayes.
Juneau now takes a four game road swing to Anchorage to end the regular season.
The top two teams from each division advance to the Legion State Tournament July 21-26 in Anchorage along with the next four highest point totals from either division. Teams not making the state tournament play in the Matson Invitational July 21-26 in Anchorage.
“We still have a lot of work to do in this coming road trip if we are thinking about making state,” Dillon said. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time. Ideally we would like to win out but you just have to worry about the game you are playing that day. We are not looking too far ahead. We’re just trying to get a win against which ever team we are playing that day.”
LEGION AA BASEBALL STANDINGS
Team - Points / League / Overall
Service Post 28 Cougars - 41 / 9-5 / 16-9
Wasilla Post 35 Road Warriors - 38 / 8-6 / 9-11
South Post 4 Wolverines - 32 / 7-4 / 17-7
Juneau Post 25 Midnight Suns - 30 / 6-6 / 8-9
West Post 1 Eagles - 26 / 4-10 / 6-18
East Post 34 Thunderbirds - 16 / 1-12 / 4-19
Fairbanks Post 11 49ers - 14 / 1-10 / 4-13
Team - Points / League / Overall
Eagle River Wolves - 48 / 12-0 / 20-9
Chugiak Post 33 Mustangs - 46 / 11-2 / 14-10
Bartlett Post 29 Golden Bears - 41 / 9-5 / 12-13
Dimond Post 21 Lynx - 40 / 9-4 / 14-9
Palmer Post 15 Pioneers - 39 / 8-7 / 14-10
Kenai Post 20 Twins - 35 / 7-7 / 13-13
North Pole Post 30 Wild - 20 / 3-8 / 7-12
Ketchikan Post 3 Kings - 14 / 1-10 / 4-11
The Post 25 roster currently includes Rory Hayes (#7), Garrison Luben (#16), Kasen Ludeman (#6), Oliver Mendoza (#22), Gavin Millard (#8), Porter Nelson (#1), Olin Rawson (#21), Kai Schmidt (#17), Landon Simonson (#15), Christian Nelson (#10) and Marcus Underwood (#55).
Juneau manager is Chris Dillon, and coaches are Jeremy Ludeman, Joe Tompkins and Jack Schmidt. American Legion players must be under the age of 19.