Prep baseball: Bears earn South No. 1 seed

Kodiak’s Brandon Mahle pitches to a Palmer hitter during a 2013 high school baseball game at Baranof Field. (Derek Clarkston photo)

With a mid-80s fastball and a sweeping curveball, Brandon Mahle’s high school career was spent making hitters look silly.

The right-hander was a strikeout wizard, racking up a program-best 117 during his four years on the mound for Kodiak High’s baseball team. Mark Putney, who pitched for George Fox University, is second on the list with 115.  

With a lengthy list of quality starts, Mahle’s finest performance was his last in Kodiak pinstripes — yes, the team wore pinstripe uniforms back then.

First-year coach James Arnold handed the ball to his ace pitcher — the Southcentral Conference South Division MVP — in the opening game of the 2013 state tournament against Ketchikan, the Southeast Conference champions and 2012 state runner-up. 

Mahle delivered Kodiak its first opening-round state victory since the Bears’ state championship season in 2004, authoring a 7-1 masterpiece, which stands as the program’s last win at the big dance.  

He set the tone by striking out nine of the first 10 batters. He finished with 13 strikeouts and only allowed one hit — an infield bouncer over his head in the fourth inning — and no walks in seven innings. The run the Kings scored in the fourth was unearned. 

“I knew I had to have one of my best games because it was my final game for Kodiak,” said Mahle Tuesday afternoon from Oregon. “I just focused and didn’t think about anything else but one batter at a time.”

Ketchikan starter Brein Auger matched Mahle through the first three innings. Kodiak got to Auger in the fourth and broke the game open with a seven-run frame. Catcher Seth Starr had two hits that inning, including a two-run single. Austin Frick brought home a run on an infield single, while Kodiak’s other four runs were scored on bases-loaded walks or wild pitches. 

“The wheels just came off for Ketchikan,” Arnold told the Daily Mirror in 2013. “When we went up 2-1, it is almost like the air came out of them. I think a lot of that had to do with Mahle and the way he was pitching.” 

Tony Wylie, an Anchorage-based MLB scout, was part of KVOK’s radio broadcast team and was impressed with the young Mahle. 

“He has a natural cut fastball and has a lot of movement,” Wylie said during the broadcast. “He works quickly, and as a coach, you gotta like that.” 

Mahle proved he was one of the best pitchers in the state in 2013 by posting a 4-0 record with a .875 ERA (only allowed four earned runs) in 32 innings. He fanned 56, walked seven and gave up 12 hits. 

Mahle’s senior season in Kodiak came on the heels of his American Legion state title run with the Kenai Post 20 Twins in the summer of 2012. The Rock did not have a Legion team back then, so island players spent their summers on the Kenai Peninsula playing for the Twins. 

“At first, it was a little intimidating because they didn’t know who I was,” Mahle recalled. “My first game, I told myself I had to do my best to make sure they knew who I am. I threw a shutout my first game and from there, it was kind of a breeze.” 

At the state tournament, Kenai lost its first game, then won seven games — four by one run and one in extra innings — in a row to claim the title and a trip to the Lower 48 for the Northwest Regional. 

“I had to pitch in three or four of those games, either as a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher,” said Mahle, who referenced Kenai’s 11-10 victory over Service as his favorite game during that run. 

Following a hall of fame career, Mahle — a 2013 KHS valedictorian — received offers to play in college, but instead opted to attend Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Whitworth had a tremendous program — math — that he was looking for. 

While there, Mahle beat out about 20 guys to make the NCAA Division II team as a walk-on. He never appeared in a game in his one season there. 

“I felt like I had to work from being no one to them to making sure they knew who I was,” he said. “That was a little rough.”  

Since Whitworth, Mahle has bounced around schools, going to the University of Hawaii-Hilo, Oregon State University and University of Oregon. He will finish his master’s program in June 2021 and enter the education field as a math and science high school teacher. 

“I liked baseball a lot in school, but I was always much more of a science/match person. That was my first passion,” Mahle said. “Sports were fun, but I really enjoyed the classroom as well.”

Mahle said he hasn’t picked up a baseball since 2016. 

“I wouldn’t mind playing catch with someone every now and then,” he said. “That would be fun.”   

      

   

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