PALMER — In each of the last three years, the Mat-Su Miners have ended the season at the top of Alaska’s baseball world. The three-time defending Alaska Baseball League champions will begin their quest for the four-peat Wednesday, hosting the Chugiak Chinooks at 7 p.m. at Hermon Brothers Field in the season opener.
“The expectation is to win another (championship),” Mat-Su first-year head coach Tyler LeBrun said earlier this week. “Make it four in a row. No team has ever won four in a row.”
LeBrun and pitching coach Jeff Urlaub are back for their second summer with the Miners in Palmer. Both got to celebrate victory following the ABL Top of the World Series championship set last August.
“We know what it takes to win another championship,” LeBrun said.
Both were also part of a Miners squad that struggled early in the 2018 season. LeBrun said going through that experience will help the Miners coaches during their second season in the ABL.
“It’s huge,” LeBrun said. “It was huge for us to go through that in our first year.”
LeBrun said he remembers wondering if it was time to hit the panic button. But the Miners played their way through the struggles and continued to get better.
LeBrun said the Miners will also benefit from the return of Texas A&M sophomore Aaron Walters, who won a ring with Mat-Su last season.
“It’s nice to have at least one guy back,” LeBrun said. “He’s experienced. He knows how we run the program. He knows what it’s like to win.”
Walters brings versatility to the Miners, with the ability to play at first, the outfield and behind the plate.
Former Wasilla High School standout Nolan Monaghan will also return to the Miners. The left-handed pitcher recently finished his first season at Division I Austin Peay State University. LeBrun said Monaghan will practice with the Miners in June, and will be available to pitch in July.
“We’ll get him on the back half of the season, which will be nice,” LeBrun said. “He’s a guy who can eat up innings.”
Monaghan was part of championship teams in 2017 and 2018.
Mat-Su currently has 13 pitchers on the staff, including four lefties. New Mexico freshman Jack White, Washington State freshman Kyler Bush, and Arizona freshmen Blake Peyton and Randy Abshier will each have an early opportunity to earn a spot in the starting rotation.
“I think they’ll all have a good summer,” LeBrun said.
LeBrun said Alabama freshman Jacob McNairy will have an early shot at the closer spot.
In the field, LeBrun said he’s excited about Mat-Su’s depth, particularly in the outfield and behind the plate. The Miners had three catchers and five outfielders before they were able to add Walters to the roster.
The Mat-Su roster also includes former Colony High School standout Matt Palmer, who enjoyed a stellar season for Waldorf University in Iowa.
The Miners will have four home games during the first four days of the season. The Miners host the Anchorage Glacier Pilots Friday at 7 p.m., and the Anchorage Bucs Saturday in a doubleheader that starts at 4 p.m.
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.