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Patriots take 3rd, Rams 4th at Division II State Baseball Tournament

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 7:24 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The book on a historic 2020-21 high school sports year came to a close over the weekend at the Division I & II Alaska State Baseball Tournaments in Anchorage and Wasilla. As one of the few sports to have their entire seasons wiped away during the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball players around the state got closure as champions were crowned. It was the first year of multiple classifications, as large schools represented Division I , while Division II was comprised of small-medium schools.

The North Pole Patriots entered the DII tournament as the Mid Alaska Conference Champions, drawing the Petersburg Vikings in the opening round Thursday. Behind the arm of Connor Lanser - who threw 7 innings of shutout ball, striking out six batters in the process - the Patriots blanked the Vikings 4-0 to advance to the semifinals. Senior Alex Garcia capped a 2-4, 2RBI performance with an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, which was more than enough support for Lanser to close the deal. Lanser, Josh Dutra (2), Logan Fischer and Brayden Grorud each produced hits in victory.

Pinned against the Kodiak Bears for a trip to the state championship on the line, North Pole struck first when Noah Perkins scored on an error, before Garcia punched in an RBI single in the bottom of the third to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead. It was a single frame that defined this game, as Kodiak found their groove and brought in four runs in the top of the sixth before shutting down the Patriot bats in the next two innings. Perkins and Garcia collected multiple hits, while Lanser and Dutra also produced a single.

Fighting for third place at the tournament, North Pole squared-off against the Soldotna Stars, another program disappointed in their semifinal performance, looking to take it out on the next game. The Stars scored a run in each of the second, third and fourth innings to take a 3-0 lead. Quickly responding in the top of the fifth, Garcia’s base hit scored Collin Drumhiller, before Ethan Frollo’s sacrifice fly brought in Garcia to trim the lead. In the same frame, Grorud’s single tied the game where it was eventually sent to extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Lanser’s RBI single proved to be enough for the Patriots to claim a 4-3 victory and 3rd place at the DII State Tournament.

Garcia concluded his illustrious prep career with a strong outing on the mound, striking out 13 batters in 7.1 innings of work while allowing one earned run. He was named to the All-Tournament team, as well as Lanser for their weekend performances.

Monroe Catholic also came away with a pair of wins at the DII State Tournament, though the first game resulted in a 8-4 loss to Soldotna. The Rams opened the scoring with an RBI base hit off the bat of Shaun Conwell Jr., but the Stars responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first. Gabe Angaiak and Conwell RBI’s gave Monroe the lead, but it would be their final of the game, as Soldotna put up five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the opening game of the tournament. Aden Sadler produced three hits for the Rams, while Miles Fowler had two.

On consolation action, the Rams hit their stride, defeated the Grace Christian Grizzlies 12-8 to advance to the 4th/6th place game. Angaiak capped off his All-Tournament performance with a 3-4, 4 RBI performance at the plate and a 7IP, 4H, 4ER, 4K performance on the mound in victory. Conwell, Sadler, Jonathan Swank and Tommy Bast each generated a pair of hits, while Jase McCullough and Brighton Higbee also produced a hit.

The Rams concluded their season on a high-note, defeating the Homer Mariners 19-6 in a shootout. Trailing 15-9 after four innings, Monroe put up five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings to send the seniors off with a win and to claim 4th place at the DII State Tournament. Seven different players collected a hit, led by Angaiak’s three, finishing 7-12 with 7 RBIs for the the tournament.

No Interior programs qualified for the Division I State Tournament. South Anchorage defeated Colony 19-0 for the State Title, while in DII, Palmer defeated Kodiak 7-3.

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