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Story Last modified at 5:12 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A learning experience
Young Mustangs grow up at state tourney

Alaska Star


Chugiak pitcher Conner Cimmiyotti delivers a pitch during Chugiak's 1-0 loss to the Alaska Road Warriors of Wasilla at the Alaska American Legion State Tournament at Mulcahy Stadium on Sunday, July 24.
STAR PHOTOs by matt tunseth

Chugiak's American Legion baseball team underwent a growth spurt over the season.

"From where we were at the beginning of the season to where we are now is night and day," said post manager Bill Lierman after his team was eliminated from the American Legion state tournament with a 1-0 loss to Wasilla on Sunday, July 24 at Mulcahy Stadium.

Chugiak took its knocks during the regular season, as the five-time state champions finished an uncharacteristic eighth in the 11-team league. But the team was competitive down the stretch, winning three of its last four regular season games before opening the tournament with a 9-2 thrashing of West in seven innings on July 22.

"I'm very happy with our team," Lierman said.

Cameron Fritz gave up one run over five innings to get the win over West. The 2011 Chugiak High graduate also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of runs scored and three RBIs.

The Mustangs never trailed, picking up five runs in the first on two-run doubles by Fritz and second baseman Conner Cimmiyotti and a run-scoring groundout by third baseman Chase Wilson. Cimmiyotti had two hits and drove in four runs, Justin Schneider had two hits and two runs scored, and Gareth Sexton had a hit and scored three times.

Sexton gave up one run in two innings of relief to earn the save.

The Mustangs couldn't keep their gallop going into the second game of the tournament, a 13-1 loss to Dimond in seven innings that sent Chugiak into the loser's bracket. In that game, Dimond pitcher Erik Scott allowed just three hits (two singles to first baseman Chase Gall and another to Cimmiyotti), and the Mustangs never threatened after a four-run Dimond first.

Chugiak's biggest problem over the weekend was hitting. The Mustangs were just 13-for-78 (.166) at the plate, and managed only five hits over their final two games. And when players did hit the ball hard, Wilson said, there always seemed to be a defender's glove in the way.

"Eventually the hits will start to fall," Wilson said.

Wilson's pitching was a big part of the story in the final game of the tournament. The righty gave up just four hits in six innings of work, striking out four batters and never blinking in a pitching duel with Wasilla's David Newman.

"Chase did a fantastic job," Lierman said. "He threw a lot of strikes and battled the whole game."

Wasilla manufactured its only run. Newman earned a walk to leadoff the bottom of the sixth, then stole second and scored on a single to left field by Damon Hammer.

Chugiak had a couple chances to come back late in the game, but poor execution spelled defeat. The Mustangs got the leadoff hitter on base to open both the seventh and eighth innings, but Justin Schneider got caught trying to steal second and Morgan Spohn was doubled off first after a line-drive bunt by Brad Pospeck was caught by Wasilla reliever Isaac Courson.

"It was just one of those things where we didn't come up with one or two hits, and it cost us," Lierman said.

Sexton and Fritz were the only 2011 high school graduates on this year's Legion team, and both made the all-state team. Sexton's eligibility is up, but Wilson said he's hoping the team's other all-state performer will return for a final season next summer.

"That would help a lot," Wilson said.

Chugiak didn't have any returning college players this year, meaning Sexton is the only member of this year's squad who definitely won't be back. Lierman said he thinks this year's youth will become next year's experience.

"We have such a young team, it'll carry over," said Lierman, who often started four or five high school sophomores this season.

Wilson, who will be a junior at Chugiak this fall, said he's excited to see what becomes of the team as it continues to mature.

"We're still developing, so it'll be good," he said. "We focused up real well this year, and over the season we just kept improving."


Friday, July 22, Mulcahy Stadium

Chugiak Post 33 5 2 0 1 0 1 0 — 9

West Post 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 — 2

WP: Cameron Fritz; LP: Alberto Valerio


Saturday, July 23, Mulcahy Stadium

Dimond Post 21 4 1 0 2 1 0 5 — 13

Chugiak Post 33 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 1

WP: Erik Scott; LP: Justin Schneider


Sunday, July 24, Mulcahy Stadium

Chugiak Post 33 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0

Wasilla Post 35 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 X — 1

WP: David Newman; LP: Chase Wilson

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.