WASILLA — The Valley features two teams in the American Legion state tournament. One is the top seed and the other has made program history.
The Wasilla Road Warriors and Palmer Pioneers will represent the Mat-Su during the Alaska Legion Baseball State Tournament, which starts Friday morning at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
Wasilla (26-6) drew the top seed in the tournament. The Road Warriors ended their regular season with a tough stretch, three games against two of the top three teams in the state. Wasilla swept Juneau in a doubleheader, before falling to Chugiak on the final day of the regular season. Juneau (23-4) is seeded second in the tournament, while Chugiak (23-5) is third. Prior to that weekend, Wasilla head coach Ken Ottinger said finishing strong against two of Alaska’s top teams would be big for the Road Warriors heading into state. And Wasilla answered the call finishing 2-1 during the three games. Despite only losing six games all year, Ottinger said the Road Warriors had room for improvement.
“We’re not where we want to be, but we’re getting there,” Ottinger said after a win over Kodiak on July 17.
Ottinger said it has been sort of a strange, roller coaster summer for the team. The bulk of the talent on the legion squad was on the Wasilla High School team that earned its first state championship in school history in early June.
“I’ve learned a lot about coaching this year after winning a state championship,” Ottinger said.
Now, the Road Warriors will try to earn the Wasilla community a second state baseball championship in as many months. The road for the Warriors starts Friday at 6:15 p.m. against eight-seeded Dimond (15-14).
Palmer finished 17-11 overall and drew the sixth seed. The Pioneers open the tourney against third-seeded Chugiak Friday at 10 a.m. Palmer head coach Matt McLaughlin said there is certainly tough competition, but the Pioneers will hit the field ready to play.
“There’s tough teams out there. Wasilla, Chugiak, Juneau are tough teams,” McLaughlin said. “We can play with anybody.”
McLaughlin said the Pioneers are not content with just being part of the eight-team field.
“That was the big goal going into it,” McLaughlin said of the 2019 summer season. “Qualify for state and make noise while we’re there.”
The tournament has a double-elimination format and continues through Tuesday. In other first-round matchups, fourth-seeded Kenai meets fifth-seeded South Anchorage at 12:30 p.m., and second-seeded Juneau meets seventh-seeded West Anchorage at 3:15 p.m.
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.