ANCHORAGE — With Wasilla clinging to a two-run lead, with two outs and a 2-2 count in the top of the seventh, Ketchikan’s Hayden McGerrigan popped up a foul ball to the right of the first base line. As the ball, high in the air, continued to drift, Wasilla senior first baseman Clancey O’Donnell took off on a sprint from his corner of the infield. O’Donnell kept pace, reached his glove in the air and hit the fence.
He also made the catch to notch the final out and help his team win a state baseball title for the first time in school history.
Wasilla scored an 8-6 win over the Kings during the ASAA/First National Bank State Baseball Championships title game Saturday afternoon at Mulchahy Stadium in Anchorage.
“He has the heart of a lion,” Wasilla head coach Ken Ottinger said of O’Donnell following the win. “He would have run through that fence. He was not going to miss that ball.”
Ottinger said it was a special moment for the Warriors and O’Donnell, who has enjoyed a stellar senior season after waiting for his opportunity during his three years as a reserve.
“For him to make that final out, celebrate and start the dog pile, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Ottinger said. “I’ve spent so much time with that kid. He’s like my second son.”
Wasilla junior pitcher Carter Huston, who was a strike away from ending the game, stood on the mound and watched as O’Donnell made his way to the fence.
“I thought it was going out. He hustled and got it. He sacrificed his body by running into the fence,” Huston said.
Huston said that final play showed what type of player O’Donnell is.
“It shows his heart. He’s the hardest working player in the offseason, during the season,” Huston said. “The state tournament meant everything to him. It shows with that play.”
Huston also stepped up in a big moment, and earned the win on the mound in relief. Huston worked 3 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits and no earned runs, while fanning two.
“That was a big step-up,” O’Donnell said of Huston. “It’s amazing. I’m really proud of that kid. He put in the work.”
Huston said he had an idea that he might be called to pitch Saturday.
“(I was) nervous at first, but once I got going I felt pretty good,” Huston said.
Huston threw 65 pitches, 42 for strikes. Ottinger said Huston is a prime example of the Warriors’ team-first mentality.
“This team is so unselfish. (Huston) has become a pitcher only. He waits and waits and waits,” Ottinger said. “He goes maybe six games without playing, then he comes in and gets the championship win.”
Wasilla built big leads early en route to quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Juneau-Douglas and Chugiak. But Saturday, the Warriors found themselves in an early hole.
Ketchikan plated two quick runs in the first. The Kings added two more in both the third and fourth innings. Ketchikan led 4-1 at one point, and 6-4 at another. But the Warriors rallied.
“I think it shows, when we know what we can do, when we’re focused, we can do anything,” O’Donnell said.
AJ Camacho scored on a Jacob Hansen single to put the Warriors on the scoreboard in the second. After Ketchikan took the 4-1 lead, Wasilla tied the game with three runs in the third.
Clayton Boyett led off the inning with a bunt single, and scored on a Byson Malave single. O’Donnell reached on a error and scored on a passed ball. Max Wanser put down a bunt, and Jacob Gilbert scored on the squeeze play to tie the game at 4.
With the bunting and the base running, O’Donnell said the Warriors were simply playing their aggressive brand of baseball.
“Coach said this is literally like any other game. We’ve come back from behind before. We’ve got this if we just do our thing,” O’Donnell said.
Wasilla’s biggest inning came in the fourth, after Ketchikan pushed ahead 6-4. The Warriors answered with four runs. Wasilla’s biggest hit of the game came with one out in the fourth. Malave tripled to drive in two runs. Malave also scored on a Ketchikan error later in the inning.
“These guys are not scared,” Ottinger said.
Wasilla reached the state baseball title game for the first time since 2001. Ottinger said many deserve credit for Wasilla’s first state baseball title in school history.
“I really need to emphasize thanks to my administration, boosters, families, parents, my coaches, everybody behind the scene,” Ottinger said. “A lot of people give me credit for this program. It’s not me. There’s tons of people who have helped elevate this program.”
Ottinger, in his fourth year as head coach, inherited a program that had won back-to-back region titles before he took over.
“It’s hard to come in and take over a program that’s started to elevate. (Jason) Terryberry did a good job. He got two banners. Now we have three more and a state championship,” Ottinger said.
Wasilla is also only the second Southcentral Confernece team to win the state crown, and the first since Kodiak did it in 2004.
“It’s great. Bring one more to the Southcentral,” Ottinger said.
Ottinger praised the conference. Colony finished among the top 4 squads in the state, beating Juneau-Douglas in the fourth-place game Saturday morning. Ottinger also said Palmer head coach Dave Combs texted him about his team Friday night.
“I got one of the greatest texts last night from Dave Combs from Palmer. He’s like, you guys have an amazing team. Your guys aren’t scared. He just gave us a huge compliment,” Ottinger said.
Wasilla is also the first Valley team to win a state baseball title.
“This is an amazing team,” Ottinger said.
Knights score a fourth-place finish
Zach Satterly pitched a complete game to help the Colony Knights finish among the top 4 teams in the state.
Satterly scattered six hits and allowed only one earned run to lead the Knights to an 8-1 win over Juneau-Douglas in the fourth-place game Saturday morning at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
Koen Leaders drove in a team-high four runs for Colony. Kaden Ketchum and Alex Manning and two RBI each. Carson McLaughlin had two hits and scored three times. Manning also scored twice.
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.