Kodiak Post 17's inaugural American Legion varsity season ended Monday afternoon in Anchorage.
Fairbanks 11 pitcher Casey Lewandowski tossed a complete-game gem with 13 strikeouts in knocking Kodiak out of the Horizon Lines Invitational with an 8-4 win in a losers' bracket baseball game at Bartlett High School.
Top-seeded Kodiak blew past West Anchorage in the tournament opener, but then fell flat against a pair of top hurlers in consecutive days. The Bears' offense struck out 28 times and generated only 10 hits in the last two games.
Despite the abrupt end, manager Leonard Pickett was pleased with how the season went. Post 17 finished 14-17 and narrowly missed qualifying for the state tournament with a 10-8 league record.
"I couldn't be more proud," Pickett said. "The kids played great baseball. I think they really matured as a team — they learned a lot of things and played a lot of baseball. We would have liked to won a few more games and still be playing, but overall it was a good season."
Pickett said the extended stay in Anchorage might have finally caught up to Kodiak's 14-man roster. Post 17 played 10 games in 12 days on a trip that started on July 16. Most of the team flew home Tuesday morning.
"It was a long trip, that always wears on our kids," Pickett said. "I've said it for years that it is always a disadvantage for us."
Kodiak tied the game at 1 on a Joe Mauer sacrifice fly that scored Jakob Arnold in the second.
Post 17 took the lead in the fourth, 3-1. Frank Carlson led off with a double and scored on an Arnold single. Arnold scored a batter latter on a Sam Bennett groundout.
The lead didn't last long.
Fairbanks finally got to starter Jon LeVan and plated five runs in the fifth for a 6-3 lead it would never relinquish.
LeVan allowed four hits, eight strikeouts — six in the first three innings — and walked eight in 4 2/3 innings.
Alex Pace gave up only two runs on one hit in the final 4 1/3 innings.
Kodiak was unable to get anything going against Lewandowski after the fourth. The right-hander no-hit Post 17 in the final four innings and finished with 149 pitches — the third straight pitcher who eclipsed more than 140 pitches against the Islanders.
On Sunday, Ketchikan's Colton Paulson tossed 145 pitches in eight innings and struck out 15 in a 7-4 win over Kodiak.
"That guy kind of blindsided us," Pickett said. "I wasn't expecting to see that from him. He is obviously one of the top pitchers in the state this year, Today was not so much the pitching, I think our kids were a little deflated after the loss on Sunday."
This was Kodiak's first American Legion varsity season since the 1980s. Post 17 was a junior varsity team last year.
Pickett is already looking forward to next season.
"I want to keep this going," he said. "I'm just not doing this for the short term, I want this to sustain long after I am gone."
Fairbanks 30 advanced to today's Horizon Lines championship game with an 8-3 win over Ketchikan Monday evening. The Wild will face either Fairbanks 11, Ketchikan or Bartlett.
Contact Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
49ERS 8, ISLANDERS 4
Fairbanks 100 051 010 — 8 5 2
Kodiak 010 200 001 — 4 3 1
Lewandowski and Overby. LeVan, Pace (5) and Pickett.
RBI: Fairbanks — Lewandowski, Kriebel 2, Overby 2. Kodiak — Arnold, Bennett 2, Mauer. Double: Fairbanks — Perdue. Kodiak — Carlson.
Winning pitcher — Lewandowski (struck out 13, walked two). Losing pitcher — LeVan (struck out eight, walked eight).
Kodiak Post 17's Sam Bennett tags a Fairbanks 11 runner attempting to steal second base in an American Legion baseball game Monday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The runner was called safe. (Derek Clarkston photo)