PALMER — As the Palmer Pioneers entered their fifth season as an Alaska American Legion Baseball program, the 2019 squad set a goal.
The Pioneers were determined to reach the state tournament. Palmer will play in the state tourney for the first time in program history, but the Pioneers are not content with just qualifying.
“That was the big goal going into it, qualify for state and make noise when we’re there,” Palmer head coach Matt McLaughlin said after a 6-0 win over North Pole at the Palmer Senior Field Friday night.
Palmer improved to 16-10 overall and 11-5 in league play with the win. McLaughlin said the Pioneers have potential to win a title.
“We have a team that can win that tournament,” McLaughlin said.
As of Friday night, seven of the eight spots in the tourney were filled. McLaughlin said there is certainly competition, but the Pioneers are right in the middle of the conversation.
“There are teams out there. Wasilla, Chugiak, Juneau are tough teams. We can play with anybody,” McLauglin said.
McLaughlin said the key for the Pioneers is confidence and focus.
“They’ve barely scratched the surface of what they’re capable of,” McLaughlin said of his squad. “If we play to our potential, we can beat anybody in the state.”
The Palmer squad is a collection of talent from the Palmer and Colony high school programs. Palmer won a conference title in 2018. Colony finished second in the conference in both 2018 and 2019. The talent from both high school teams has provided the Pioneers with the greatest depth of their short history.
“Top to bottom, our depth at every position is outstanding,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said a big step for the Palmer coaching staff is helping the Pioneers realize just how good the team is. Throughout the season as the Pioneers continued to put together wins, McLaughlin said he saw that confidence grow.
“That confidence boost for them is huge,” McLaughlin said.
Zach Satterly tossed a complete game shutout during the win over North Pole Friday. Two of the three hits the Colony High graduate allowed came in the seventh inning. Luke Guggenmos was 3 for 4 at the plate. Brady Shults led Palmer with two RBI. Carson McLaughlin also drove in a run. Six different players scored for Palmer.
Wasilla, Chugiak, Juneau, West, South and Kenai also qualified for state, as of Friday. The tournament begins July 26 at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at email@example.com.