For the first time since the 1980s, Kodiak will field a double A — or varsity-level — American Legion baseball team.
Kodiak Post 17 begins its 28-game schedule with a four-game home series against defending champion Chugiak at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Baranof Field.
Tonight’s game and the series finale at 11 a.m. Sunday are non-conference affairs, while Saturday’s doubleheader are conference games. The first game at 12:30 p.m. is nine innings, followed by a seven-inning game at 3:30 p.m.
“I’m very excited,” Kodiak manger Leonard Pickett said. “I could have come home after last year’s July trip and dusted off and hit the road again.”
Kodiak played in single A last season — a junior varsity division— and finished third in the state with an 11-7 league record, 13-13 overall. It was Kodiak’s first time fielding a legion squad since 2009, which was also in the junior varsity circuit.
This year, Post 17 is making the jump to varsity and will compete with the top 16 teams from around the state for a chance to represent Alaska at the Northwest Regional Tournament in the Lower 48.
“It is going to be more competitive,” Pickett said. “There are kids who have gone away and played a year of college baseball who we will be seeing. We are also going to be facing some nine-inning conference games, so that will be a little bit of a challenge to keep kids focused a little bit longer.”
Kodiak’s roster has 16 players — 11 who played on the high school varsity team that won the Southcentral Conference South Division title with a 9-1 record. Thirteen of the players played on last year’s legion team, while one — rising senior Jakob Arnold — played on Kenai’s varsity team.
The team consists of Kodiak graduates Austin Frick, Joe Mauer and Alex Pace, rising seniors Kalen Willis, Branden Pickett, Joe Schaclter, Josiah Chya and Frank Carlson, upcoming juniors John Norton, Sam Bennett, Jon LeVan, Ryan Bezona, Aaron Hocum and Cameron Sullins and sophomore Giovanni Martinez.
“I’m expecting a lot of good quality baseball,” Pickett said. “A lot of these kids have been on the field since February, so by the time the end of July rolls around they are going to have seven months of their year that they have committed to this game.”
Pickett said a lot of the players will get a chance to play in different positions and spend time on the pitching mound during the two-month season.
Kodiak is not the only new varsity team this season. The Fairbanks area has added a second team, along with Palmer and Ketchikan.
The 16 teams are split into two eight-team divisions — American and National. Kodiak is in the National Division with Chugiak, Eagle River, both Fairbanks squads, Kenai and Palmer.
The American Division features Service, East Anchorage, Dimond, Wasilla, South Anchorage, West Anchorage, Juneau and Ketchikan.
The top four teams in each division advance to the state tournament, while the bottom four in each division will play in another tournament.
“I’m pretty happy with our division,” Pickett said. “I think we will do well. There are some powerhouses in the other division, but this division looks like a good matchup for us — it will be challenging and we will see what happens.”
Pickett is hoping Post 17 can finish in the top half of its division and claim Kodiak’s first legion state title since the 1980s, a time when the legion program was prominent on the island.
Kodiak will play 16 of its 28 games, while 18 of the games are conference games — a team earns four points for a win, two for a tie and one for a loss.
“It is very important and just a great feeling that we have that many home games the next two months,” Pickett said.
James Arnold, Derek Clarkston and Landon Durand are assisting Pickett.
Pickett said it means a lot to have a double A team to return to Kodiak.
“It is giving back to not only the kids who have put in lots of time throughout the years of baseball, but also the people that are involved in baseball rather they are a fan or a parent.”
Contact Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.
June 13 — vs. Chugiak, 6:30 p.m.
June 14 — vs. Chugiak, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.*
June 15 — vs. Chugiak, 11 a.m.
June 20 — at East Anchorage, 6:30 p.m.*
June 21 — at Bartlett, 3:30 p.m.
June 22 — at Palmer, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.*
June 23 — at Service, 6:30 p.m.*
June 27 — vs. Eagle River, 6:30 p.m.
June 28 — vs. Eagle River, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.*
June 29 — vs. Eagle River, 11 a.m.
July 4 — vs. Kenai, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.
July 5 — vs. Kenai, 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.*
July 11 — vs. Bartlett, 6:30 p.m.
July 12 — vs. Bartlett, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.*
July 13 — vs. Bartlett, 11 a.m.
July 16 — at Fairbanks in Anchorage, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.*
July 17 — at South Anchorage, 6:30 p.m.
July 18 — at Fairbanks in Anchorage, 12:30 p.m.* and 3:30 p.m.*
July 20 — at West Anchorage, noon*
July 21 — at South Anchorage, 3:30 p.m.*
July 25 — State Championship tournament begins in Anchorage
* Conference game