Mahle is a recognizable last name in the Kodiak baseball world.
With a mid-80s fastball and a sweeping curveball, Brandon Mahle graduated in 2013 as the program’s all-time leader in strikeouts with 117 — 13 coming in a 7-1 masterpiece over Ketchikan in the opening-round of the 2013 state baseball championships.
A decade later, his half-brother, Jeremy Mahle, is an impact freshman for Kodiak.
What can you say, baseball runs in the Mahle genes.
In only his fifth varsity game, Mahle displayed the savvy of a kid who's been there before. His run-scoring double in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a tie and triggered an avalanche of runs as the Bears picked up a wild 14-11 Southcentral Conference victory over Kenai on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon at Baranof Field.
Mahle wasn’t done in the sixth. He came back around and laced a single up the middle that plated another run that capped a huge six-run inning, just a half-inning after Kenai had tied the game at 8.
That’s a heck of an outing for the rookie who came off the bench in the third inning to play right field.
“You can’t say enough about a freshman stepping in and getting a couple of RBIs in a conference game. That is pretty good,” Kodiak coach Jason Fox said.
Fox was unaware that Jeremy was Brandon’s half-brother until a few weeks ago. Fox wasn’t in the program when Brandon was doing his thing on the mound but had heard about his lore over the years. After an all-star high school and Legion (he won a state title with the Kenai Twins) career, Mahle walked onto the NCAA Division II Whitworth University (Washington) baseball team. He didn’t appear in a game in his one season in Spokane.
“I knew coach (James) Arnold thought very highly of him and was a great baseball player, a very smart young man,” Fox said. “Just getting to know Jeremy here, we are trying to get him to smile a little bit more and have a little bit more fun. He hasn’t played this kind of baseball yet.”
He had fun on a gorgeous Friday afternoon in Kodiak. But he wasn’t the only freshman to come up big for the Bears.
Landen Alford — hitting behind Mahle in the eighth spot in the batting order — reached base three times (a fielder’s choice and two errors) and came around to score each time.
“They are shaking off that shell shock a little bit and getting in there and swinging the bat and just letting the game come to them. It is working out pretty good,” Fox said.
Kodiak rallied from a 5-0 second-inning deficit and overcame five errors to remain undefeated in conference play with a 2-0 record, 2-3 overall.
In the comeback, Kodiak unleashed 11 hits — three from Holland and two from Williams and Mahle — off of three Kenai pitchers. The top three in the order — Holland, Malakai Olson and Williams — drove in half of the 14 runs.
“Offensively, we know we can put up some runs. When we start hitting the baseball it gets a little contagious,” Fox said. “With the way the game started, the energy level in the dugout was very sluggish.”
Following a four-run second inning, the Bears grabbed their first lead in the third on an Olson two-run single that just got past a diving Kenai shortstop.
Kodiak added solo runs in the fourth and fifth frames to go up 8-5.
The Bears’ lead was erased in the top of the sixth when Kenai plated three runs — two off an error and one on Owen Whicker’s third single of the game.
After Kodiak’s six-run sixth, Kenai’s first three batters in the seventh singled and scored to cut the deficit to 14-11.
Williams closed the game with runners on third and second with an infield popup and a groundout to third.
Williams logged 3 2/3 innings in relief of starter Jon Flerchinger to earn his first win of the season. He struck out two, walked three and allowed five hits — three in the seventh inning.
“I can’t say enough about Hunter coming in in relief,” Fox said. “Him coming in and throwing four innings for us was huge.”
Kodiak begins the Buddy Dale Tournament on Thursday in Wasilla.
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