Thirty years later, Boze's 21-strikeout game still tops

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 28, 2018

Before he became the first Alaskan to play Major League Baseball, Soldotna’s Marshall Boze had a different claim to fame.


He struck out 21 batters in one game, and lost.


In 1988, the rocket right-hander with Kenai Post 20 threw a three-hitter over eight innings broke the all-time strikeout record in a 6-1 loss to East Post 34 during the Alaska American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Mulcahy Stadium.


East went on to win the state championship.


Boze went on to pitch in the big leagues.


Thirty years ago, though, he was a teenage Legion player with big dreams and electric stuff. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder had racked up high strikeout totals in previous games, but nothing like his record-breaking performance against East.


“He was overwhelming,” said Kenai manager Lance Coz, who coached Boze in 1988. “He was like that guy in ‘Bull Durham’- boom, boom, boom, he’d strike out three batters and the next time he’d kill the mascot.”


Boze definitely dealt like an ace against an East team that still cherishes its brush with greatness.


“I remember that game like yesterday,” said East shortstop Troy Lovdahl, now 47. “Still have the scorecard (teammate) Chris Pobieglo kept by hand.”


After falling behind early in the game, Boze didn’t allow a base hit after the third inning and went into Roger Clemens mode and struck out 15 of the final 19 batters.


Of those four hitters that didn’t see strike 3, two walked, one grounded out and the other flied out.


“All I remember is his ball was super heavy and hard. At the plate, you were just trying to stay alive,” said East catcher Trent Taylor, now 48. “I got interviewed after the game because I was the only guy on our team who didn’t strike out!”


Armed with a 90-mph fastball and devastating slider, Boze had the kind of stuff that made batters look foolish.


“Marshall’s pitches had so much movement,” Lovdahl said. “He struck me out on a slider I missed by three feet.”


The East hitters weren’t the only ones having trouble handling Boze’s pitches. His catcher did as well. Five East batters struck out only to reach base after the ball got passed the catcher.


“Not only could East not touch him, his catcher struggled to catch him,” Coz said. “His stuff was too good.”


Half the runs East scored that day came from guys reaching base after striking out. Still, Boze doesn’t put blame on his battery mate. He holds no ill will.


“Nobody was harder on him than he was, and he was really hard on himself that day,” said Boze, now 47. “I don’t think I was even pissed off about that game. I was just happy I struck out 21 guys.


“I was pretty pissed because we couldn’t touch that guy’ s curveball.”


That other guy was East starter Rob Tune, who threw a 9-inning complete game 6-hitter.


“He just kept throwing his curveball and saying, ‘Here, hit it,’ and nobody could touch it,” Boze said.


East scored six runs on three hits, with the T-birds getting all their base hits and all the runs they needed coming in a four-run second inning.


Taylor, the captain, singled and later scored on Rick Mueller’s sac fly. Mike Periera reached base after striking out, Rob Tune walked and Lovdahl followed up with a two-run triple. Lovdahl scored on Jeff Tune’s single.


“I touched two pitches that day,” Lovdahl said. “A foul ball and the triple.”


Taylor had the best success against Boze, going 1-for-3 with a walk. He was also the only East player not to strike out.


“You asked me how I saw him so good? I didn’t. I just got lucky,” Taylor said. “I was a good fastball hitter and that’s what my hit was on. His slider was nasty. It looked like a fastball and then it disappeared.”


Boze’s 21 strikeouts broke the previous Legion state tournament record of 20 set in 1980 by Kenai left-hander Kevin Stalker. Prior to that Anchorage’s Dick Scarborough twice struck out 19 batters at the state tournament in 1956 and 1955.


Looking back, Boze remembers his Legion days fondly.


“I just remember being really happy when I pitched because I got to strike people out,” he said. “That’s what I lived to do.”


In 1989, he went to Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California. In 1990, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 12th round. He started in rookie ball and advanced To Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A.


On April 28, 1996, Boze made his MLB debut against the Seattle Mariners. He retired all four batters he faced.


A month later he was closing games.


Boze earned his first save in just his seventh MLB game and had a 1.50 ERA through his first 10 appearances.


In all, he played in 25 games in the 1996 season, finishing eight of them. He struck out 19 batters in 32.1 innings and finished 0-2 with a 7.79 ERA.


Boze didn’t lack confidence on the mound. And it didn’t matter who was at the plate.


“He was built like a bull and when he hit Albert Belle he didn’t even think twice about backing down,” Coz said with a laugh. “That’s typical Marshall.”


In 10 minor-league seasons, Boze posted a 62-65 record in 221 career games. He completed 18 of his 159 starts and struck out 693 batters in 1,025 innings. His wins, strikeouts and innings are way ahead of any other pro pitcher from Alaska.


He’s most proud of being the first Alaskan to pitch in the big leagues.


“That means the world to me,” Boze said. “I like the look on people’s face when I get to say that. They look at you twice, like, ‘What, really?’ Sometimes I’m even in awe of that.”