Chugiak pitcher Ashley Van Ryn delivers to the plate during the Mustangs' 11-0 win over Bartlett on April 23 at Albrecht Fields in Anchorage. Van Ryn struck out nine batters and gave up one hit in five innings to pick up the win.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH
It's a state title or bust for the Chugiak softball team.
"We have very high expectations," said head coach Jim Huber after his team cruised to wins over Service and Bartlett on April 23. "We think we're going to be right there competing for a title."
Huber has every right to be optimistic about his squad. The Mustangs went 19-3 during the regular season last year, won the Cook Inlet Conference title and finished third at the state tournament. This season, Huber has a seasoned squad (of the team's 12 core players, 11 are either juniors or seniors) and a pair of front-line pitchers in Ashley Van Ryn and Jessica Tramp.
"They're both aces," Huber said. "We have a pretty good duo out there."
Having two pitchers who can be relied on is a huge advantage in softball, where teams often ride dominant hurlers all season. Huber said that with two solid starters, the Mustangs have an extra level of security.
"They're both ready to go every game. If one's struggling, the other is ready to step in," Huber said.
Chugiak opened its season with a disappointing 8-3 loss to East on April 21 in a game where the Mustangs looked like anything but a state contender.
"We looked like the Bad News Bears revisited," Huber said of his squad, which committed six errors in the game.
Huber said first-game jitters may have had something to do with the sloppy play, but said that's no excuse.
"They faced the same thing we did," he said.
Chugiak's brief losing skid ended on April 23, when the Mustangs returned to form with a pair of lopsided victories. In the early game, Chugiak crushed Service 10-1 behind Tramp, who struck out eight over five innings while allowing just two hits. Taylor Bakker went 2-for-2 with a pair of runs scored, as did Brooke Dunlap.
In their next game, against Bartlett, Van Ryn took over on the mound, striking out nine and allowing just one hit against the Golden Bears to key Chugiak's 11-0 win. Tramp went 2-for-2 at the plate, while Dunlap had a three-run triple and finished with four RBI.
"She hit the ball hard," Huber said.
Chugiak continued its strong run of play early into the following week, pushing its record to 3-1 with a 7-1 win over Dimond on April 25. Tramp struck out four batters in the win for Chugiak, which got two RBI each from Kacey Brooker and Mollie Matthis.
Huber said Chugiak's team is made up of fundamentally sound players who can move around the diamond, a luxury he's happy to have.
"We can kind of mix and match, and we're very fortunate to have the ability to do that," he said.
Additionally, many of his players have been playing sports whether it be softball, basketball or volleyball together for many years.
"The chemistry on this team is really, really good," he said. "There is no drama, and they all really like each other."
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727.
This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, April 28, 2011.