ANCHORAGE — Hours after finishing the regular season with a league doubleheader split with Ketchikan, Kodiak Post 17 received stunning news — the Bears will be playing in their first American Legion state tournament since 1992.
After wrapping up the regular season with a 7-11 league record, 10-16 overall, Kodiak earned the No. 2 seed for the Matson Invitational, a tournament for the bottom eight teams in the 16-team league.
That changed late Tuesday night when the Alaska Legion office announced Wasilla, Ketchikan and Palmer were ineligible to compete in the postseason tournament for not purchasing team insurance before the deadline.
Wasilla lost its state tournament berth and will now play in the Matson Invitational. As the No. 1 seed in the Matson, Ketchikan was next in line for the vacated state slot, but it also did not meet the deadline for insurance.
That cleared the way for Kodiak to move up to the eighth seed in the 66th Alaska American Legion State Tournament.
The Bears will begin the double-elimination tournament against top-seeded Juneau (17-1 league, 23-1 overall) at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
The champion will represent Alaska at the Northwest Regional Tournament in Montana, while the runner-up heads to Idaho for the NWCART Tournament.
Kodiak’s only Legion state title came in 1985 when the Bears defeated Chugiak 7-6.
The program went away soon after and reemerged in 2013 as a junior varsity team. The team was elevated to varsity status a year later.
Kodiak put itself in position to take advantage of other teams’ misfortunes by mounting a massive rally in the final game against Ketchikan.
Down 6-0, the Bears erupted for 13 runs in the final two innings to stun the Kings.
Kodiak took advantage of a shaky Ketchikan pitching staff that issued 13 walks, three with the bases loaded.
Luke James led Kodiak’s nine-hit attack, going 4 for 5 with an RBI and three stolen bases.
Jace Crall collected a pair of singles and earned the win, pitching the final two innings. He struck out two and allowed one unearned run on two hits.
Shaun Walton started and gave up six runs — five earned — on nine hits.
The series opener was a slugfest featuring a combined 26 hits: 17 for Ketchikan and nine for Kodiak.
Ketchikan’s Wyatt Barajas and Cody Kemble each slugged home runs.
Khyler Kane slapped a double and drove in two for Kodiak, while Anders Hocum went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and two stolen bases. TJ Foxworthy and Chase Good each went 2 for 4.
Ketchikan 13, Kodiak 8
Kodiak 011 203 1 — 8 9 0
Ketchikan 040 243 x — 13 17 2
Arndt, Williams (4) and N. James. Salazar, Stack (6) and Schultz.
RBI: Kodiak - Hocum 2, Malloy, L. James, Good, Kane 2. Ketchikan — King 3, Salazar 4, Barajas, Kemble 2, Stack, Nordlund. Home run: Ketchikan - Barajas, Kemble. Triple: Kodiak — Malloy. Double: Kodiak — Kane. Ketchikan — Kemble, Stack, Nordlund. Three hits: Ketchikan — King, McGarrigan, Stack. Two hits: Kodiak — Hocum, Good, Foxworthy. Ketchikan - Barajas, Kemble, Tavares.
Winning pitcher - Salazar (struck out three, walked four). Losing pitcher — Arndt (struck out none, walked two).
Ketchikan 411 001 0 - 7 11 1
Kodiak 000 067 - 13 9 5
McGarrigan, King (5), Jasper (5), Slick (6) and Kiffer. Walton, Crall (6) and N. James.
RBI: Ketchikan — King, Kiffer, Kemble, McGarrigan 2. Kodiak — Hocum 2, Malloy, L. James 2, Good, N. James 2, Walton, Kane, Foxworthy. Triple: Ketchikan — McGarrigan. Double: Ketchikan — Kiffer. Four hits: Kodiak — L. James. Three hits: Ketchikan - Barajas. Two hits: Ketchikan — King. Kodiak — Crall.
Winning pitcher — Crall (struck out two, walked one). Losing pitcher — King (struck out none, walked two).