Chugiak manager Bill Lierman discusses strategy with the Mustangs' Cameron Fritz during Chugiak's 10-0 win over Service in the opening game of the Todd Ryan Memorial Tournament in Wasilla on June 30.
Eagle River speedster Brandon Metzel was making things happen.
First, the Wolves' leadoff hitter walked off Chugiak starter Chase Wilson to open the rivals' American Legion baseball showdown on the final day of the Todd Ryan Memorial Tournament at McManus Field in Wasilla. With Wilson on the hill (he's Chugiak's best catcher), Metzel had no trouble quickly swiping second base then third. With no outs, the Wolves' Kyle Frost lifted a shallow fly ball in the direction of Chugiak right fielder Cameron Fritz. Fritz caught the ball and fired home; Metzel tagged and bolted for the plate.
Not this time.
Fritz's throw was on the money, and Chugiak remained unbeaten against the Wolves with a dominant 11-1 rout in the final game of the annual Independence Day weekend tournament on July 3.
"Our guys are playing with a little more confidence," said Chugiak manager Bill Lierman, whose team went 2-2 in the four-day tournament.
Eagle River has shown signs of improvement this season, but the Wolves struggled all weekend, going 0-4 and losing by a combined 50-12. Eagle River head coach Gregg Frost said the team which had been playing .500 ball up until two weeks ago can still learn from the disappointing tourney.
"We have to figure out what we were doing different and how do we get back on track," Frost said.
Eagle River rarely threatened Wilson after Metzel's early charge. The hard-throwing redhead struck out four batters in six innings of work, allowing just two hits and a single run. Wilson also ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule when his hard single to left field scored Fritz from third base.
Metzel wasn't nearly as sharp on the hill for Eagle River. He walked the first three batters he faced in the first, then gave up a two-run single to Justin Schneider. Conner Cimmiyotti and Alex Bozzo added RBI sacrifices in the inning to put the Mustangs up 4-0.
Chugiak added a run in the third on Wilson's RBI single, a score the Wolves got back in the top of the fourth when Greg Long's single scored Kyle Youngs from second base. The Mustangs got three more runs in the fourth, two coming on Fritz's two-run single that made it 8-1. Chugiak pushed its lead to 10-1 in the fifth on singles by Wilson and Deven Ferriss and a pair of Eagle River errors.
Chugiak pitcher Chase Wilson delivers to the plate during Chugiak's 11-1 win over Eagle River in the final game of the tournament. Wilson gave up just one run in six innings to pick up the complete-game victory for the Mustangs, who went 2-2 in the tournament.
The victory was the second strong showing on the mound for Chugiak in the tournament. In their tournament opener on June 30 against Service, Schneider struck out eight and allowed just one hit in Chugiak's 10-0 thrashing.
"That's the best game I've seen him pitch in our program," Lierman said of Schneider's outing.
Gareth Sexton led the offensive onslaught with a 4-for-4 performance, while Ferriss scored three times.
Eagle River was plagued by defensive woes all tournament. The team gave up double digits in all four games and often looked lost in the field.
"We just kept throwing the ball away," Frost said.
The Wolves coach said fatigue may have been wearing on his young team by tournament's end.
"They're a little weary."
The tournament finale was the team's seventh game in eight days, and Frost said he thinks the best cure for what's ailing his team is rest.
"We could probably use a break," he said.
Lucky for him, the tournament was followed by the team's longest break of the season, a week long stretch that ends Saturday, July 9 with a doubleheader against Kenai at Oberg Field beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Lierman, meanwhile, will be taking his improving squad to Anchorage for the BP Tournament, which begins today with a 1 p.m. game against Dimond at Mulcahy Stadium. The Mustangs will face Service at 2:15 p.m. on July 8 and Napoleon (Ohio) at 7:30 p.m. on July 9. The outcome of the first three days' of play will determine when the Mustangs play on Sunday, July 10.
TODD RYAN MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT
McManus Field, Wasilla
Thursday, June 30
Chugiak 10, Service 0
Wasilla 13, Eagle River 3
Friday, July 1
Napoleon (Ohio) 16, Eagle River 1
Las Vegas 11, Chugiak 1
Saturday, July 2
Service 10, Eagle River 7
Napoleon (Ohio) 10, Chugiak 0
Sunday, July 3
Chugiak 11, Eagle River 1
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, July 6, 2011.