State Tournament Title Game: Juneau 13, Wasilla 8
Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 30, 2019
Title Game Juneau 13, Wasilla 8
History was made as the Midnight Suns became the third Alaska Legion team in 67 years to win three straight state championships after scoring five runs in the eighth inning to the beat the No. 1 Road Warriors.
Bobby Cox finished 2-for-5 with four RBIs, including a three-run triple in extra innings to power No. 2 Juneau's 11-hit attack. Gabe Storie was 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs, and Christian Ludeman scored two runs, drove in two runs and pitched the final 5.2 innings to earn the winning decision.
Juneau joined East (2003-2006) and West (1964-1968) as the only teams to three-peat. This will also be the third straight year Juneau will represent Alaska at the Northwest Regional. Last year, the Midnight Suns became the first team from the 907 to win a regional game since 2009. This year’s Northwest Regional will be held next week in Lewiston, Idaho.
The championship game featured four lead changes and a late-game tie that forced extra innings. The 21 combined runs made this the highest scoring state final since 2000 and just the fifth-ever state title game to go into extras.
How’d we get there? This game’s storyline had more twists and turns than a made-for-TV movie, with both sides delivering outstanding performances in a game that could have gone either way. It’s fitting these teams split their 4-game season series.
Wasilla (29-8) built a 5-1 lead in the third inning after Waylon Payne scorched a two-run double that scored Kyle Graham and Clancey O'Donnell.
Juneau (28-5) pulled within 5-3 in the top of the fourth inning on a Cox RBI double and Brock McCormick RBI single, but Wasilla responded in the bottom half on Clayton Boyett's RBI single to make it 6-3.
In the fifth inning, Juneau kept the pressure by plating two more runs after Storie singled and later scored on a wild pitch and Donavin McCurley doubled and scored on a Ludeman's groundout to get within 6-5. And just like the previous inning, Wasilla responded with a run after Kyle Graham scored on a fielder's choice.
With runners at second and third, Byson Malave chopped a grounder deep in the hole at shortstop, but rather than throw to first base, Storie made the easier play at third base. The tag was made for the third out, however, it wasn’t before Graham touched home plate. So, the run counted to give Wasilla a 7-5 cushion.
Juneau answered back again in the sixth inning with a third consecutive crooked number, this time a three spot. Storie’s sac fly tied the game at 7-7 and McCormick scored on an error to give the Midnight Suns their first lead since the first inning at 8-7.
Still, you just knew Wasilla had one more rally, and the Road Warriors didn’t disappoint.
Graham, who had a big game with two hits, three runs and an RBI, led off with a double to get the party started. O'Donnell was hit by a pitch and Payne reached on a bunt to load the bases. That's when Juneau coach Joe Tompkins called his team together for a visit on the mound. Wasilla's Balau Buckmaster hit a sac fly to tie the game at 8-8 for the first out.
But that was all Ludeman surrendered and the game went into extra innings.
In their next at-bats, the Midnight Suns do what they do best: win. Storie’s RBI double and Cox’s three-run triple put Juneau over the top and secured the team’s third straight state title and state-best 25th postseason win since coming back to Legion in 2013. Cox was named the tournament's Big Stick Award winner and Storie earned state tournament MVP honors - the same award his big bro won in 2016.
Wasilla’s second-place showing punched the team’s ticket to the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament (NWCART), which will be held next week in Cody, Wyoming. This was Wasilla’s first appearance in the Legion title game since 2010.
State Tournament Awards
Top Pitcher - Clayton Boyett, Wasilla
Gold Glove - Oliver Mendoza, Juneau
Big Stick - Bobby Cox, Juneau
MVP - Gabe Storie, Juneau