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Short memory a tall order in baseball, but Thompson adapts

Don’t think, just hit.

Hitting a baseball is never that simple, but Anchorage’s Tyler Thompson is making it look easy.

The junior third baseman at Pacific Lutheran University is batting .317 in 26 games and ranks among the Northwest Conference leaders in extra-base hits and RBIs.

“It’s cool that everything is clicking this year,” he told me.

Compared to last year he added 106 points to his batting average and increased his slugging 63 percent. He has twice as many doubles and surpassed totals for hits, runs and RBIs.

Thompson is like a different player this year – so much so he should win newcomer of the year instead of comeback player.

He credits a short memory for his success. He doesn’t dwell on the good or the bad, choosing instead to focus on the present to combat complacency.

“I learned to relax, I guess,” he said. “This year I kind of just let myself go. I just go up there and hit. I’m not thinking too much. I’m not putting pressure on myself. I’m just playing my game.”

Thompson, of Dimond High fame, is a big reason PLU has won 20 of 28 games and has been nationally ranked among NCAA D3 teams. The Lutes are currently listed in the category of also receiving votes.

“It’s been an awesome year so far,” he said. “It’s coming down to the wire. It’ll be a fun time.”

Adding to the excitement is that PLU features another Alaskan in pitcher Garrett Brown of Anchorage. Brown, like Thompson, is having a career year with a 3-1 record and 3.72 ERA over nine appearances, six starts.

Thompson leads PLU with 23 RBIs and is tied for the lead in home runs [3] and doubles [10]. He is slugging .505.

He credits his success to a more refined mental approach, using tools as easy as positive re-enforcement, visualizing success and not overthinking.

He doesn’t dwell on failure or obsess on success.

“I want to have that what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mindset,” Thompson said.

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Bynum crushes first college HR, bumps season average to .329

Hitting the long ball isn’t really his game, but Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks can knock it out of the park.

The freshman center fielder hit his first home run for Arizona Western College during a 14-3 win over Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

“It felt great to get my first home run as a college player but that’s not what I swing for,” Bynum told me. “I swing for the team and the situation we are in.”

The former Alaska player of the year out of Monroe Catholic High hit a two-run shot over the center field fence for his only hit in three at-bats. The game lasted only five innings.

Bynum raised his batting average to .329 in 41 games.

He ranks No. 1 on the team with 8 stolen bases, second with 22 walks and 31 runs and third with 29 RBIs and a .451 on-base percentage.

Bynum is batting .500 since March 7 [28-for-56].

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Mayo tapped to take over Wasilla Post 35 program

Mat-Su Valley coaching staple Jamie Mayo today has been named manager of the Wasilla Post 35 baseball program for the 2015 season by Alaska American Legion Baseball Department Chair Russ Baker. 

His high school age coaching resume in baseball and football is extensive.

Mayo served as one of the founding coaches for the Colony High baseball program along with Bill and Delores Forrester and Doug Bean in 1995. He was the head coach from 1995 to 2010 and an assistant from 2011 to 2013.

During that time Colony claimed the conference championship eight times from 2000 to 2013. 

In addition, Mayo served on the Colony football staff from 1995 to 2010. Five of those years were as head coach. Colony made the playoffs every year during Mayo's tenure.

Three times he was named the Assistant Coach of the Year in the state and conference. He was also named conference and Alaska Coach of the Year.

Mayo also coached football as a defensive coordinator at Chugiak High from 2011 to 2013.

At Wasilla Post 35, Mayo replaced Boone Thompson.

After a stellar high school sports career at Service High in the late 1970's, Mayo played college football and baseball at Linfield College in Oregon. He also played in the Alaska Baseball League with the Mat Su Miners and Anchorage Bucs.

Three of Mayo's grown sons played baseball for Post 35 in past years.

Baker indicated that Mayo's credentials and reputation were just what the Legion program was looking for in the leadership of Post 35. Mayo will assemble a complete coaching staff to assist with the AA [Varsity] and A [JV] teams. 

“Jamie Mayo identifies with the core values of American Legion baseball of Americanism, sportsmanship and team development,” Baker said. “I am confident that he and his team will represent themselves and American Legion Baseball very well on and off the field.”

All Alaska Legion Post manager position appointments are for one year, and the Post manager selects their own coaching staff. 

Baker said people in those positions should represent the core values of American Legion organization and of American Legion Baseball. 

“Yes there are issues of throwing strikes and hitting the ball, but most importantly managers are asked to teach the young baseball players lessons about Americanism, sportsmanship, winning with class and losing with grace,” Baker said.

At many Legion games that have PA announcers, the Legion Code of Sportsmanship is recited by players and coaches to remind them that they not only represent themselves, but their Post, their team and the American Legion patch on their uniform. 

American Legion Baseball is the largest high school age baseball program in the United States with thousands of college and MLB players having participated. 

In Anchorage, Legion Baseball has operated the Anchorage School District’s Cook Inlet Conference for 23 years in an agreement with ASD.

Delta Junction/Ft. Greely boosts Legion AA count to 17 teams

Alaska Legion Baseball Dept. Chair Russ Baker on Thursday announced that Delta Junction/Ft. Greely will participate in the Alaska Legion Baseball league this year. 

The Delta team is sponsored by Post 22 and will compete as a charter member, meaning all of their games will be nonleague in the AA [Varsity] division and they will not be eligible for postseason play. The team will also play some games in the A [JV] division.

Post 22 will be managed by Harold ‘Sonny’ Zarecki.

The Delta D'backs will begin play in June with travel to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Some games will also be played in Delta Junction. Support for the team will come from the Delta Junction/Ft Greely community. 

The Delta Huskies high school team currently competes in the Mid Alaska Conference with the six Fairbanks area schools.

Delta Post 22 will draw from one of the smallest high school enrollments of any of the Alaska teams, but has had some success competing in the Mid Alaska Conference in past years. 

With the addition of the two new Delta Post 22 teams, Alaska now has had the largest percentage growth of American Legion baseball teams in the country of any state in the last two years under Baker's direction. 

Juneau Post 25 joined the league in 2013 while Fairbanks 30, Palmer Post 15, Kodiak Post 17 and Ketchikan Post 3 joined in 2014 along with an additional Post 30 A team in Fairbanks. 

Currently, 17 ALB Post teams from around the state compete in Legion AA competition, and it is anticipated that 10 to 12 teams will compete in the Legion A division in 2015 when play starts at start of June.

Bynum heats up, sparks fire in Arizona Western middle lineup

Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks has settled into a nice groove for the Arizona Western College baseball team after moving to the middle of the lineup.

The speedy outfielder is hitting .429 with 16 RBIs over his last 13 games to help his team go 12-1 during that stretch.

With eight multi-hit games this month, Bynum lifted his season batting average to .325 in 36 games.

He had a career-high 4 RBIs in an 8-3 win over Mesa Community College last week.

The freshman sports a .448 on-base percentage, which is the third highest on Arizona Western.

Last year's Alaska player of the year has 23 RBIs, 26 runs and a team-high 8 stolen bases this season.

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Way picks up third win coming out of Edmonds CC bullpen

Brian Way of Sitka keeps finding himself in critical situations for the Edmonds Community College baseball team.

And he keeps coming through with flying colors.

The freshman right-handed relief pitcher picked up his third win with 3.1 innings of work in an 11-7 victory over Bellevue College in NWAC action in Washington.

Way improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.50 in seven appearances this season. He also has a pair of saves.

Edmonds is 7-0 on days Way pitches.

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Brown revitalizes college career as pitcher, 3-0 as PLU starter

When he was younger, Garrett Brown of Anchorage was one of the most promising pitchers in Alaska. Then he hurt his right arm and became a catcher.

He was good enough to land at spot at Pacific Lutheran University, but he never really ever settled in behind the plate. 

He belonged on the bump.

Brown is back on the mound and pitching better than ever. The junior starter has a 3-0 record and a tidy 2.53 ERA in 32 innings for the NCAA D3 school Washington.

“Honestly, I’m not extremely surprised about how I’ve pitched,” he told me. “I was always itching to get back on the mound and I thought I was never going to after my injury my senior year [of high school].

“My surgeon did an amazing job a year and half ago and he’s made it so I can pitch again. Obviously I miss catching, but I see myself as more of a pitcher.”

Brown, of Service High fame, is a big part of a 17-7 PLU team that is ranked No. 23 nationally.

The Lutes also feature Anchorage third baseman Tyler Thompson, who is hitting .333 in 22 games and leads the team with 3 home runs, 10 doubles and 48 total bases.

Brown and Thompson have played baseball together since they were 9 years old.

“It seems that every one of my starts he gets a couple big hits to help me out,” Brown said. “He’s having a huge year and it’s awesome to continue playing with him.”

Brown’s super season is even more impressive if you consider he hadn’t thrown a pitch in college before this year. Yet he has averaged a strikeout per inning, including 19 over his last two starts.

He had 10 Ks against Whitworth and fanned 9 against Whitman.

“The strikeouts come with locating pitches and getting ahead of batters,” he said. “I trust my defense so it makes me have confidence throwing any pitch.

“My pitching coach [Sean Taunt] is incredible and has helped me get to where I am. Without him, I would not be pitching like I am recently.”

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Blue Mountain Alaskans come up clutch in 15-inning win in NWAC

Three Mat-Su Valley locals had their fingerprints all over the biggest win of the season for the Blue Mountain Community College baseball team.

The Timberwolves beat visiting Skagit Valley 7-6 in 15 innings thanks to clutch plays by Ben Ross and Jonathan Boyer of Wasilla, and Jacob Butcher of Palmer.

All three came up huge with the pressure cooker on full blast.

Ross delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off single; Butcher scored the winning run; and Boyer plated the tying run in the ninth inning to force extra innings. 

Boyer started in left field and finished 1-for-5 with two RBIs. With one out in the ninth, he drew a five-pitch walk with the bases loaded to tie the game at 5-5.

Butcher started in right field and also went 1-for-5. He scored twice, including in the 15th when he ripped a one-out single to give Blue Mountain runners at first and second.

With two down and the game tied at 6-6, the T-wolves called on a pinch hitter. Ross took ball one, strike one, ball two and then smacked the game-winning single to score his former Legion teammate for the walk-off victory.

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Bashing backstop: Ferntheil breaks the mold for catchers

Most catchers don’t run fast enough or hit well enough to bat at the top of the order, but Stephen Ferntheil of Anchorage is different.

He is a bashing backstop.

The 23-year-old sophomore catcher at East Georgia State College is hitting leadoff and batting .371 in 20 games this year. He’s even got three stolen bases.

“I’m not blazing on the base paths, but I’m not slow either,” he told me.

Hitting leadoff has advantages, he said, like seeing more fastballs early in the count.

“It allows me to be more aggressive rather than having to wait for the perfect pitch,” he said. “Pitchers aren’t going to attack a leadoff hitter like they would the three, four hitter in the lineup.”

Ferntheil, of Service High fame, is hitting so well it wouldn’t matter where you put him. Dating back to last season, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder is hitting .402 in the last 36 games in junior college.

The wear and tear of logging nine innings at the catcher position is so rigorous, so rugged, that most coaches don’t expect much offense. They’d rather a catcher focus on building defensive fundamentals, working with pitchers and learning a hitter’s tendencies.

“My dad said I could be a good defensive catcher, hit .100 and they’d be happy, just because it’s so difficult,” he said.

Ferntheil just makes it look easy. But he’s got here because of hard work.

“You gotta work hard on the field if you want to be a good hitter,” he said. “I spent hours and hours in the cage, hitting off the tee, off my brother. You have to put in work on the field.”

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

Chapman embracing new reliever role at Everett College

Everett Community College pitcher Dalton Chapman of Anchorage recently picked up his first save and later admitted he is growing accustomed to his new reliever role.

“Everybody wants to be a starter, that’s always the dream,” he told me. “But coming in as a closer is nice; it’s like, ‘Hey, you’re our dude. We need you.’ I like being that guy.”

The 6-foot-5 freshman right-hander has made four relief appearances this month. He has a 3.55 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.

His outings have ranged from an inning to 5.1 innings. The day he got his save he pitched scoreless frames in the seventh, eighth and ninth to preserve a 4-2 win over Vancouver Island.

“Everything was just working. My fielders were making perfect plays,” he said. “I was getting those hitters to roll over or pop out.”

Chapman, of West High fame, has embraced his reliever role because he understands he might have to work his way out of the bullpen to be a starter.

“I want to work for it,” he said. “Growing up I always wanted to play baseball at the next level. This is what I live for. I’m having a blast. It’s awesome. I love it here.

“I’m learning more every day how to throw a ball better and what I can do to fix my mechanics. It’s honestly a lot of maturity, living on my own now. It’s a lot different. I’m learning how to be a grown up, basically.”

This story was written by Van Williams, a freelance writer in Anchorage and the ALB Media Director.

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