Post 17 manager Derek Clarkston knew that facing the recently crowned high school state baseball champions was going to be a challenge.
What he wasn’t expecting was his pitching staff to lose control of the strike zone, which added an extra hurdle to climb over.
Wasilla Post 35 took advantage of a bevy of free passes to sweep Saturday’s American Legion league doubleheader, 8-2 and 9-5, at a sun-soaked Baranof Field.
The Road Warriors remained undefeated in league play at 8-0 and improved to 12-1 overall. The Bears dropped to 2-4 in league, 2-9 overall.
Wasilla won its first high school state title earlier this month and added three college players — Taylon Ottinger, Austin Robertson and Kyle Graham — to form what is currently the top AA team in the state.
Kodiak hung with Wasilla but couldn’t overcome the 20 walks and four hit batters issued by its pitching staff.
“The fact that we only lost by a combined 11 runs was a testament to how well our defense played,” said Clarkston, whose club turned two double plays.
“Wasilla had traffic on the base paths all day and we were able to minimize the damage with several sparkling glove plays.”
Kodiak jumped on Roberston, who just completed his freshman season at Dawson Community College in Montana, in the opening frame of the first doubleheader.
With one out and Jack Malloy on first, Chase Good boomed a double to center field. The throw to third to get Malloy sailed out of play, which brought home the first run.
Good later scored on a single from Jace Crall.
Roberston settled down after that, tossing six scoreless innings of three-hit ball. The right-hander was extremely efficient, fanning 10 and walking none on 84 pitches — 60 for strikes.
Malloy, making his first start for Post 17, was solid through the first 2 2/3 innings and nearly got out of the third inning unscathed.
He struck out Robertson — one of six on the day for Malloy — for the final out in the third but a dropped third strike that bounced off the umpire allowed the batter to reach first and extend the inning.
Wasilla pounced on the extra out and by the time the inning ended the Warriors were up 4-2.
“Malloy got the batter to chase a curveball and it was an unlucky bounce that we were never able to recover from,” Clarkston said.
Malloy gave up three more runs in the fifth and left after 4 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits and issued seven walks.
Micah Ardnt was touched for an unearned run on three hits in his 2 1/3 innings. He struck out one and walked one.
Hocum led Post 17’s offensive attack, going 3-for-3 with a double, while Malloy and Nathan James each hit singles.
Ottinger went 3-for-4 and scored twice for Wasilla.
Clayton Boyett, Graham and Calvin Stoll each drove in two runs.
After giving up two runs in the opening frame of the nightcap, Kodiak tied it at two in the second of Jacob Gilbert, the Southcentral Conference most valuable player.
Hunter Williams infield single that bounced off Ottinger’s glove at second scored James, who reached on a single.
Williams then scored on Hocum’s line drive — one of two hits for the speedy center fielder.
Wasilla grabbed the lead for good in the bottom of the second on a bases-loaded walk.
Falling behind 8-2, Kodiak clawed back into the game with a three-run fifth inning off reliever Boyett.
The Bears loaded the bases with nobody out and scored a run on an error, a dropped third strike and a Crall ground out.
An inning later, Kodiak mounted a two-out rally and had the tying run at the plate, but Good grounded out to second to end the threat.
Boyett relieved Gilbert in the third inning and fanned nine and allowed one hit over five innings.
Gilbert surrendered five hits in two innings.
Good allowed three runs on three hits while walking three and striking out three in 1 1/3 innings.
Ardnt pitched two innings in relief, giving up five runs on three hits, while Williams allowed only one run on one hit in 2 2/3 innings but walked six.
“The difference between the two clubs is pitching,” Clarkston said. “Wasilla’s guys touch mid-80s and are around the plate, while we have a collection of guys who have to hit spots — and we didn’t.”
Khyler Kane and Malloy had singles for Kodiak.
Ottinger, Waylon Payne and Stoll each drove in two for Wasilla.
Wasilla took both nonleague games 18-1 on Friday and 13-0 on Sunday.
Both games were played in entirely different weather conditions; it rained during Friday’s game while it hit 77 degrees during Sunday’s series finale.
Malloy drove in Kodiak’s only run in both games on a single. Crall and James accounted for Kodiak’s only other hits in Friday’s game.
Ottinger no-hit Kodiak on Sunday. He struck out five and walked five in five innings.
Post 17 concludes its home schedule this Thursday and Friday with a four-game series against Kenai Post 20.
Thursday’s league/nonleague doubleheader starts at 3 p.m.