WASILLA — Wasilla faced its toughest challenge of the season against a region opponent, but the Warriors found a way to climb back to the top of the Southcentral Conference.
The Warriors used a 4-1 win over rival Colony Friday night at Redington to win the 2019 Southcentral Conference crown, and score their fifth title in the last six years.
“(It feels) amazing,” Wasilla senior Clancey O’Donnell said after the win.
Wasilla’s region title comes after a season’s worth of growth for a team that graduated six seniors after the 2018 season.
“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think we would be here,” O’Donnell said. “I was not expecting this.”
But the growth was key, he said.
“We really came together as a family this year. It’s the fastest we’ve come together as a family since I’ve been here,” O’Donnell said. “That played a huge role in what we’ve done here today.”
O’Donnell was part of a Wasilla program that notched region titles during his freshman and sophomore seasons. But he said this accomplishment feels more special.
“It definitely does,” O’Donnell said.
Wasilla head coach Ken Ottinger said that his team has proved a lot during the 2019 season.
“Their heart, and how they play, how they listen, how they’re unselfish,” Ottinger said. “I’m very happy.”
Wasilla’s Jacob Gilbert earned the win on the mound. The right-hander allowed five hits and only one earned run, while fanning seven. Wasilla had a key defensive play that helped the Warriors cement the win. The Warriors converted a double play that ended the top of the sixth inning. The effort including O’Donnell reaching high at first base to complete the double play.
“That was huge. Gilbert was getting to his pitch count and we were debating who to go with,” Ottinger said. “That was huge for us.”
Each team finished with six hits in the game. Ottinger credited Colony’s play in the region final.
“I tip my hat to (Jordan) Chadwell. Chadwell has done a hell of a job,” Ottinger said of Colony’s head coach. “He runs a great program. I have the most respect for him. I’m glad to have had that type of game.”
Wasilla averaged double digits in scoring en route to finishing 8-0 in conference play during the regular season. But the Warriors had to overcome an early deficit during a semifinal win over Palmer earlier in the day, and the victory over Colony.
“We were challenged twice today,” Ottinger said.
Colony took an early lead. Kaden Ketchum singled and scored on a Zach Satterly single to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
Jacob Hansen beat a throw to the plate after a Clayton Boyett sacrifice fly to tie the score at 1. Waylon Payne used a two-run single to add to his team’s lead. Nolan Murphy also drove in a run.
With the win, Wasilla secured the first of the conference’s two automatic bids to the state tournament.
“I’m really proud of my guys and excited to see what we can do at state,” Ottinger said. “Happy to be back on top.”
The second berth to state will be determined Saturday. Colony will play the winner of the Grace Christian-Homer match Saturday at noon at Redington.
Wasilla 9, Palmer 2
Wasilla used nine unanswered runs to post a 9-2 win over the Moose Friday afternoon in the conference semifinals.
Clayton Boyett finished 3 for 3 for the Warriors, with an RBI and two runs. Clancey O’Donnell and Jacob Gilbert drove in two runs each.
Owen Hayes led Palmer with a pair of hits. Hayes and Keeagan Norman had an RBI each.
Colony 9, Kodiak 2
Colony advanced to the region final with a 9-2 win over Kodiak Friday morning.
Alex Manning drove in three runs to lead Colony. Kaden Ketchum finished 3 for 3 in the leadoff spot, scored a run and had an RBI. Trace Severson , Tyler Siracusa and Zach Satterly drove in two runs each.
Homer 12, Palmer 7
Homer ended Palmer’s season with a 12-7 win over the Moose during elimination action.
Harrison Metz led the Mariners with three hits and three runs. Karl Wickstrom added two hits, two runs and two RBI.
Brady Shults finished 3 for 4, with three RBI and two runs for the Moose. Lucas Adams had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run. Palmer entered the tournament as the defending region champion.
Grace Christian 15, Kodiak 4
Grace Christian earned its second straight win in elimination game Friday, beating Kodiak 15-4. Josh McGovern and Steven Brown drove in three runs each for the Grizzlies. Grace scored seven times in the sixth.
Grace Christian 23, Kenai 3
Grace Christian kept its season alive Friday afternoon with a 23-3 win over Kenai Central in an elimination game.
Cameron Withrow drove in six runs for the Grizzlies. Kenai finished with five hits in the loss.