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Ridley’s road back from torn ACL comes full circle at Dawson

Two years ago, Jake Ridley of Anchorage had his high school baseball career end after tearing his ACL in a freak knee injury during a post-game dog pile at home plate. 

It’s been a long road to reach home plate again, but the all-star shortstop is back on the field.

The freshman starter at Dawson Community College in Montana enjoyed a 15-for-30 hitting clip last week during a 9-game road trip through Kansas and Nebraska.

Six of his hits went for extra-bases, including his first college home run to right field. He also had five doubles.

“The home run felt great,” he told me. “I didn’t think I got all of it, but I had some help from the wind. It was a fastball, belt high and a little outside.”

Ridley, of Service High fame, missed the college season last year. He learned about Dawson College from high school teammate Conner Melton, a catcher on this year’s team.

The coach took a chance on Ridley and the Alaska infielder is paying off.

“I’d say I’m back to being 100 percent. It took a lot of work to get where I’m at right now as far as health,” he said. “I honestly try to find the good in my injury. By tearing my ACL, it made me work that much harder and it made me want it more.”

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

Scorching-hot Bynum raises average 62 points in 5 games

He was so-so for most of the Western Arizona College baseball season, and then Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks heated up to remind everybody why he was so coveted.

The freshman outfielder doubled his batting average with a 12-for-24 clip over a five-game stretch that saw his team go unbeaten. 

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, is now hitting .319 in 27 games and showing off the talent that saw last year’s Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year get drafted in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds.

He was only the second Alaska non-pitcher to be a top-20 draft pick. The first was Trajan Langdon in 1994.

Bynum started slowly by his standards, hitting just .257 after his first 21 games at Western Arizona. He definitely picked it up, though.

The 6-foot left-handed hitter collected at least two hits in the next five games to raise his batting average 62 points in less than a week.

In one game against Gateway College, he entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning with his team down 6-1. He singled and later scored as part of a three-run inning. Then in the eighth he singled, stole second and scored the tying run in an eventual 7-6 win.

The next day during a doubleheader against Phoenix College he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Game 1 and 3-for-6 with a double, run and RBI in Game 2.

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

Brown pitching like the PLU comeback player of the year

He didn’t throw a single pitch in each of his first two seasons with the Pacific Lutheran University baseball team.

But now Garrett Brown of Anchorage is pitching like an ace.

Brown continued his tremendous throwing with a 6-inning shutout stint in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Whitworth during NCAA D3 action in Washington.

Brown scattered two hits and three walks while striking out a career-high 10 batters.

The 6-foot-1 right-hander picked up the win to improve to 2-0 this year and lowered his ERA to 3.00 in 24 innings over six games.

Brown, of Service High fame, has allowed only two earned runs over his last 16.1 innings – easily the best stretch of his college career.

His ERA is 1.25 in his last four appearances since Feb. 21.

Brown was a versatile player growing up in Alaska, capable of playing multiple positions. He arrived at PLU as a catcher and infielder but struggled at the plate, hitting just .140 [13-for-93] in his first two years.

The decision was made for him to pitch this year and he's responded like the comeback player of the year.

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

Thompson’s bat, Brown’s arm highlight Pacific Lutheran rout

Anchorage’s Tyler Thompson continues to tear the cover off the baseball for Pacific Lutheran University.

The junior third baseman banged out three more hits in a 14-2 victory over Willamette in NCAA D3 action.

Thompson is now hitting .351 with six doubles and a home run in 14 games.

Starting pitcher Garrett Brown of Anchorage picked up his first win of the season for PLU. 

The right-hander threw six strong innings, scattering seven hits and a walk. He fanned five.

Brown, of Service High fame, had come out of the bullpen in his last two outings. This was his third start.

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

Bynum gets back on track, keys Arizona Western College win

Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks had two hits, two RBIs and a stolen base for the Western Arizona College baseball team in a 6-4 win over Gateway Community College.

The former Alaska player of the year is hitting .257 in 22 games.

The freshman outfielder has been a table setter most of the season, leading the team with 18 runs and ranking third with a .442 on-base percentage.

This time he supplied the muscle with his first two-RBI college game. He has 9 RBIs overall.

Bynum, of Monroe-Catholic High fame, leads Western Arizona with 7 stolen bases. He’s been caught only once.

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

Osborne delivers walk-off base hit to beat team with 3 Alaskans

Anchorage’s Sagan Osborne today had his best baseball moment in two years, and he got to enjoy it with three other Alaskans on the field.

Osborne’s one-out single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning ended Treasure Valley’s 6-5 win over Dawson in JC action in Oregon.

He entered the game as a defensive substitute at third base in the top of the seventh as Treasure Valley looked to close out a three-run lead. 

“I wasn’t even going to hit,” Osborne told me.

But Dawson rallied for three runs to force the bottom half of the inning. Then Treasure Valley loaded the bases with one out to bring Osborne to the plate.

“We are a stacked team and I hadn’t got much playing time over the weekend,” he said.

He came in cold and walked off red hot.

Osborne, of Dimond High fame, drove a soft line drive to right field to plate the winning run and beat a Dawson team with three Alaskans in the lineup.

“That made it extra special,” Osborne said.

Dawson [Mont.] had three Service High alums in the field when Osborne got his hit – Jake Ridley at shortstop, Conner Melton at catcher and Ryan Caron in right field.

“It’s definitely awesome to see another Alaskan being successful,” Ridley told me, “but a loss still hurts either way.”

Caron finished 2-for-4 with a run and RBI. Ridley hit third in the order but went 0-for-4. Melton entered as a defensive replacement.

For Osborne, the game-winning base hit was his first hit in college. It’s a long time coming for a promising high school player that started his journey two years ago at Utah Valley State before coming to Treasure Valley.

“It was a huge weight off to come through and help this team win,” he said. “I’m just thankful to be in this great program and I really see it as my second chance to prove myself.”

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

Manzer homers to continue super start at Sonoma State

Adam Manzer of Anchorage has returned to college baseball with a bang.

The junior outfielder at NCAA D2 Sonoma State in California is hitting .333 in his first six games after sitting out last season as a transfer from College of Marin.

He slugged his first home run for Sonoma State in a 4-3 loss to Chico State and owns a .411 on-base percentage.

Manzer, of West High fame, was an all-star catcher in high school but now is a versatile outfielder for the Seawolves; he has already played defense in left, center and right field.

Two years ago, Manzer hit a career-high .279 in 32 games for College of Marin. He was one of the league’s hottest hitters in the final 12 games when he hit .373.

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

Karnos no-hits Southern Idaho for 6 innings, settles for 3rd win

He wasn’t perfect, but Western Nevada College pitcher Max Karnos of Anchorage might as well have been for six innings against Southern Idaho.

The sophomore right-hander faced the minimum 18 batters as he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, a walk in the third inning erased by a double play.

Karnos lost the no-no but won his third decision, highlighting Western Nevada’s 12-0 win. The 6-foot-4 ace improved to 3-1 and lowered his ERA to 0.87 and extended his shutout streak to 15.1 innings.

“Honestly I wasn’t nervous because I just wanted our team to get the win. It would have just been a bonus for the no-hitter,” he told me.  

“Throughout the whole game I gave a little peak up at the scoreboard to see how hard I was throwing, so yeah I was well aware I was throwing a no-hitter.”

The win snapped Western Nevada’s five-game losing streak, the team’s longest since 2007.

Karnos was determined to end the skid.

He retired the first six batters before walking the leadoff hitter in the third, but he was removed after the next guy grounded into a double play. Karnos maintained a clean sheet through six innings, throwing just 76 pitches.

He allowed back-to-back singles to open the seventh, breaking up his no-hitter.

No worries, though.

Karnos, of South High fame, struck out the next batter before getting the next guy to ground into a double play to preserve his clean sheet.

Karnos hasn’t given up a run since his first start Feb. 1.

“The seven shutout innings was a great consolation,” he said. “I was really happy that all my pitches were working well.”

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

Two days, two game-winning hits for PLU’s Thompson

It seems like these days all Tyler Thompson of Anchorage does is win games with base hits.

The Pacific Lutheran University baseball player doubled in the game-winning runs to beat Corban University in each of the last two days in Oregon.

“In big situations it’s been nice to come through,” he told me. “I’ve been trying to figure out my swing at the plate lately and it’s finally starting to come around.”

The junior infielder started both games at third base against Corban. He hit near the bottom of the lineup but stepped up when it mattered most.

On the first day he went 1-for-3 with a two-run double in the fourth inning that served as the game-winner in a 4-1 win.

The following day he delivered a two-out, two-run double to provide a 3-2 lead in an eventual 4-2 win. It was his only hit of the game.

“It’s a big spot. You relax and let it all go,” Thompson said. “I just try to do what I always do and try not to get my emotions running too high and just go up there and act like it’s the first inning, no pressure.”

Thompson, of Dimond High fame, is hitting .292 in six games this year for the NCAA D3 school in Tacoma, Wash.

It’s a stark contrast to last year when he hit .211 in 38 games.

“I was barreling up balls and hitting them hard. They just weren’t falling for base hits,” he said. “Maybe I guess hitting later in the order I will get fastballs, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of those pitches.”

It may have not always looked pretty, but Thompson ranked second on the team with 3 HRs and 16 RBIs. So he’s got a knack for coming through in tight situations.

Today’s win against Corban was especially sweet for Thompson because Anchorage’s Garrett Brown pitched well for PLU in his second start of the young season.

Brown, of Service High fame, allowed just two runs over 5.2 innings.

Thompson’s game-winning hit saved his buddy from taking a loss on his pitching record.

“I play third base so to be right there next to Garrett, it’s awesome,” Thompson said. “He’s been throwing pretty well for us. He’ll be a big part of the team this year. It’s nice to get a win for him.”

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

Fitka signs with Iowa Lakes during early signing period

The Iowa Lakes Community College baseball team got a big commitment from a big kid from Alaska.

Anchorage’s Joe Fitka – all 6-foot-6, 200 pounds of him –was one of 11 players to sign during the early signing period as part of the biggest recruiting class in school history. He will be eligible to play this fall.

“Joe is a key part of our recruiting class,” Iowa Lakes coach Joey Pavlovich told the Dickinson County News. “We needed frontline pitching due to us losing so many of them this year and he could be an absolute monster here.”

Fitka, of Dimond High fame, was an all-league first baseman last spring in the Cook Inlet Conference. He has a quick swing with some pop.

In the fall he participated in the Arizona Fall Classic with the Alaska Baseball Academy. He pitched pretty well in front of dozens of college scouts, allowing 3 runs in 5 innings. 

“Joe is a good kid and I see him being a very successful JC ballplayer,” ABA coach Tony Wylie told me. “He throws a mid-80s fastball now, but that will improve quickly once he’s in a full-time throwing program.”

Iowa Lakes coach Pavlovich believes Fitka has all the tools to help Iowa Lakes compete on a national level.

“Joe has an outstanding changeup and curveball, and a good feel for the strike zone,” he said. “In our system, I don’t see why he can’t be at 90 [mph] next year.”

The coach also thinks Fitka has what it takes off the field to handle the transition from high school to college, Alaska to Iowa.

“We really enjoyed being around his family and have been in great communication with them, especially with a guy coming from that far away,” Pavlovich said. “We are more than excited to see how he progresses once he comes to campus.”

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

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