Standing in the cold and layered in Kodiak High School baseball apparel, coach James Arnold watched as South Anchorage and Chugiak played for the inaugural Rex Edward Matautia Invitational Tournament title.
Every so often he engaged with one of his coaches, or a fan, about his team — a squad that lost all four of its games in the four-day, season-opening tournament at Baranof Field.
Arnold, in his third-year, wasn’t pleased with Kodiak’s first three games, but his thoughts turned positive after a tough 8-7 loss to Dimond in Saturday’s third-place matchup.
The Bears rallied from a five-run deficit and was an out away from victory, but couldn’t close it out as the Lynx scored twice in the seventh inning in posting their second win over Kodiak in the tournament.
“It was a game. We competed and it was the level I was looking for out of these players — it took that fourth game for them to come around,” Arnold said.
The Bears opened the tournament with losses to Dimond (8-6), Chugiak (7-0) and South Anchorage (18-5) — all teams that should challenge for the Cook Inlet Conference crown — before falling to Dimond again.
Arnold said the first-year tournament was a success despite his team starting 0-4 for the first time since 2005 — that team started 0-6 and finished 12-8.
The tournament was named after Rex Matautia, a Kodiak Little League player who drowned in Lake Gertrude in July 2013.
“The first thing that we were looking for out of this tournament was to recognize Rex and the Matautia family. We don’t want to lose sight of that,” Arnold said. “Second, we wanted to get game experience for our players and get them ready for conference.”
Kodiak has a three-game home series against West Valley (April 16-18) before beginning Southcentral Conference play against Soldotna (April 24-25) at Baranof Field.
The Bears nearly ended the tournament on a high note against Dimond. Down 5-0, Kodiak tied the game with five runs in the fourth.
Kodiak got a two-run single from Joe Schactler, a run-scoring double from Jakob Arnold, an RBI single from Sam Bennett and a sacrifice fly from Jon LeVan during the inning.
Brandan Pickett, who pitched four innings in relief of starter Jon LeVan, put Kodiak up 7-5 by ripping a single in the sixth that scored Schactler and Bennett, who both reached on singles to begin the inning.
Dimond picked up a run in the sixth and scored a pair of runs with two outs in the seventh. The winning run scored on an error, one of six Kodiak had during the game.
“The kids never got down, and it would have been easy to get down when it is 32 degrees and overcast,” Arnold said. “We learned some things that we need to work on and that is what we were looking for out of this tournament.”
South 18, Kodiak 5
Tournament most valuable player Willy Homza was a double away from hitting for the cycle in South’s 13-run victory over Kodiak on Friday.
Homza, a senior shortstop headed to Brown University, went 3 for 4 and drove in six runs — half of those coming on a home run to right field in the fifth. The game, played in snow flurries, was called after the fifth inning via the 10-run mercy rule.
Aaron Hocum drilled a double and a single for Kodiak.
A five-run third inning cut South’s lead to 8-5, but last year’s state runner-ups ended the contest with 10 straight runs.
South went on to down Chugiak, 10-0, in Saturday’s championship game.
Parker Johnson and Brendon Hayhurst both lined a pair of two-run singles in the first that staked South to a lead it would never relinquish, handing Chugiak its first loss of the tournament.
Julito Fazzini and Jonathan Homza — Willy’s brother — combined to one-hit Chugiak. Fazzini pitched the first three innings before giving way to Homza.
Derek Clarkston is a staff writer at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 625.
LYNX 8, BEARS 7
Kodiak 000 502 0 — 7 7 6
Dimond 410 001 2 — 8 3 3
LeVan, Pickett (4) and Chya. Fitka, Montagna (4), Anderson (7) and Bremont.
RBI: Kodiak — LeVan, Arnold, Schactler 2, Bennett, Pickett 2. Dimond — Henrickson, Thorp 2, Hillman, Boese 2. Double: Kodiak — Arnold. Dimond — Thorp, Boese. Two hits: Kodiak — Schactler, Bennett.
Winning pitcher — Anderson (struck out none, walked none). Losing pitcher — Pickett (struck out two, walked five).
WOLVERINES 18, BEARS 5
South 116 73 — 18 9 1
Kodiak 005 00 — 5 6 3
Vega, Johnson (3), J. Homza (5) and Fazzini. Bennett, Martinez (3), Carlson (4), Walton (4) and Pickett.
RBI: South — W. Homza 6, Fazzini, Johnson, Hayhurst, Subitch 2, Lincoln 2, J. Homza 2, Schwarz. Kodiak — Carlson, Arnold, Moir, Martinez. Home run: South — W. Homza. Triple: South — W. Homza. Double: Kodiak — Hocum. Three hits: South — W. Homza. Two hits: Kodiak — Hocum.
Winning pitcher — Vega (Struck out one, walked two). Losing pitcher — Bennett (struck out none, walked seven).
Rex Edward Matautia Invitational Tournament
South 10, Chugiak 0
Dimond 8, Kodiak 7
South Anchorage 18, Kodiak 5
Chugiak 14, Dimond 4
Tournament most valuable player — Willy Homza, South Anchorage