PALMER — On Wednesday night, the Mat-Su Miners played an exhibition game against a group of All-Stars from the Post 15 and Post 35 American Legion teams at Hermon Brothers Field after the Miner’s scheduled matchup with the Fairbanks Goldpanners was canceled. Mat-Su Miners General Manager Pete Christopher reached out to Post 35 Manager Ken Ottinger after learning of the cancelation on Tuesday night and asked if his players might like to play against the Miners.
“We always want to see youth baseball promoted in the Valley. That’s why we have our clinic in July, that’s why I let them use the field, so they could get better and that’s the whole point of this whole thing,” said Christopher.
The All-Stars fell to the Miners by a final score of 13-3, but competed against the Alaska Baseball League leading squad of college players from all over the country. Landon Guggenmos broke up the no-hitter, driving a single up the middle in the third inning for the All-Stars. Guggenmos and Jacob Hansen both scored on a Bryant Marks single later that inning, buying the game at two runs apiece.
“I was trying to put the ball in play. I didn’t feel too much pressure. I’m going up there as a high school kid going against college pitchers so I was trying to put the ball in play, have some fun,” said Marks.
Marks also walked twice and did not strike out in the game. The Miners sent Christian Seelhorst to the mound to start the game and Seelhorst made quick work of the Legion All-Stars, striking out every batter he faced except for Marks. Wasilla High product Austin Robertson who pitches for the Miners came in to pitch in the third inning.
“At the end of the day, being able to see some of those players come up and compete against our team, it means a lot,” said Robertson.
The Miners scored just a single run in each of the first three innings. Colony product Evan Walker started the game on the mound for the All-Stars and smacked a deep double over the right fielder’s head to start the fourth inning against Robertson. Former Post 35 standout James Arend who pitches for Corban University in Oregon worked the fifth and sixth innings for the Miners. Arend struck out four batters in his two innings of work and gave up an unearned run to the All-Stars when Walker drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth inning.
“It was just awesome to go out there and throw to them. I didn’t throw any changeups tonight, but did show off the curveball a little bit and if you want to go play at the next level you’re going to see guys a lot better than me out there and so it was fun.This whole night was fun,” said Arend.
While Marks led the All-Stars at the plate, he got to see the talent of the Miners hitters up close during the 5th inning. Cumbo hit a three run homerun to right field, scoring Josh Mrozek and David Bermudez, which was followed by a mammoth two-run homerun to left field from Miners third baseman Mike Ferrara.
“It was much better than an off day, we want to get out here and play. Today was fun. I hope they had fun because I know we did,” said Ferrara.
Texas A&M flamethrower Willy Johnston usually takes the field to dominate opposing teams from the pitcher’s mound. Johnston has 43 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched this summer for the Miners, but contributed to the game in an unusual way. Johnston walked to the batter’s box for the first time in over a year against Hansen and promptly flied out to the shortstop Brayden Parrent.
“It was definitely fun. Nick Cirelli was really pushing some buttons making sure I was able to get the opportunity. I’m absolutely devastated I wasn’t able to capitalize. I made up my mind I wasn’t going to swing first pitch and he threw a great pitch and I just missed it,” said Johnston.
Wasilla first baseman Wyatt Walling’s family is hosting Johnston during his summer in Alaska. After the game was hastily scheduled late last night, Johnston and Walling began trash talking about their upcoming matchup. Walling reached on an error and scored during the game. Johnston was impressed with catcher Pedro Comacho, who threw out Mrozek attempting to steal during the third inning.
“He was really good behind the plate, threw one of our faster guys out so for some young guys they definitely took care of business,” said Johntson.
Alaska Legion Baseball has hosted a College Coaches Camp for the last 27 years which culminates with an All-Star game between local Legion players from the camp and the Anchorage Bucs. Last week, the Chugiak Chinooks played a group of All-Stars from the Chugiak and Eagle River Legion Programs, and Alaska Legion Baseball President Steve Nerland said that plans are in place to host an All-Star game in Fairbanks as well.
“We appreciate the opportunity for the kids to be showcased, so we really appreciate that form the Miners in particular,” said Nerland. “This All-Star game just adds another positive to it.”
Colony grad Brayden Methven pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the All-Stars. Methven got an assist from Wasilla’s Jace Crall who scooped up a ground ball at third base, tagged his bag and threw across the diamond to Walling.
“I loved it. It’s an opportunity for them to develop some confidence and to see different pitchers and really know that they can do it and that’s going to give them confidence in our league when they’ve faced this,” said Post 15 Manager Matt Ketchum.
Tyler Wilson and Mike Ferrara led the Miners at the plate with two hits and two runs apiece. Ferrara had three RBI, as did Cumbo who had three RBI, three runs and two hits.