Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907
The Alaska Sports Blog is sponsored by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and provides daily updates on local athletes outside the state. The blog was created in 2009 to fill a void of media coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner Van Williams has been with the blog since the beginning and written more than 2,900 stories on over 500 Alaska athletes.
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With this being his final year of college baseball, Sagan Osborne of Anchorage doesn’t want to hold back. That goes for his swing too.
“I am trying to unleash my swing a little bit more in favorable situations,” he told me. “I worked a lot this summer on my power.”
The 6-foot-3 senior shortstop at Dickinson State University in North Dakota has always been a good contact hitter with gap power, but this year he is knocking the ball out of the ballpark.
Osborne has mashed four taters in six games this fall after hitting just one in 52 games last season with the NAIA team.
He went yard three times in Sunday’s doubleheader sweep against the University of Winnipeg. He finished 6-for-8 at the plate with seven RBIs and seven runs scored.
“I’m just getting my pitch and not missing it,” he said. “I felt like last year I was just missing a few pitches that I could really drive and I really couldn’t figure out why.
“I think by allowing myself to just swing hard at those pitches instead of thinking too much about just making contact has allowed my instincts to take over.”
Osborne, of Dimond High fame, is hitting .583 this year with 14 hits in 24 at-bats. Six of his hits have gone for extra bases.
The fall season features just two more games before things shut down until spring.
“All the teams treat these like real games because they are, so you going to see everyone’s best,” he said. “It feels good to be driving balls out of the park, but I don’t think it’s going to affect my mindset at the plate.
“I feel like my swing is in a pretty good groove right now so I’m going to make sure I’m not changing just because the success has been putting balls over the fence.”
With no college offers, Anchorage high school senior Brandon Pili left Dimond last month for Westview in Portland, Oregon, in attempt to make a name for himself.
The move paid instant dividends as the 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive lineman received two NCAA D1 scholarship offers after his first game.
“The transition has gone good,” he told me. “The kids and the people here are cool and welcoming. The move definitely helped.”
Pili is the latest Alaska teenage athlete to leave the 907 in an attempt to gain respect and exposure in the Lower 48 – and then blew everyone away once he arrived.
Much like former Alaska prep basketball stars Brandon Huffman and Kamaka Hepa, Pili has seen his stock skyrocket with college coaches once they got a chance to see him up close in action.
Huffman left West after his junior season for Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina. He just signed with Roy Williams and the University of North Carolina.
Hepa left Barrow after his sophomore season for Jefferson in Portland, Oregon, where he also played in the Nike EYBL and has been already been offered by several Pac-12 and Big 12 powers.
At Westview, Pili anchors the defense on the state’s fourth-ranked team. The Wildcats are 4-0 and the Alaskan has been pegged as one of Oregon’s top newcomers.
“The coaches over here have taught me more about the game and that has definitely improved the way I play and also the competition here pushes me to be the best,” he said.
Pili has received offers from Oregon State and Hawaii as well as interest from Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Boise State.
“There’s more talent and the game play is faster out here,” Pili said. “There’s better coaching and more connections out here. Like the whole Westview coaching staff went D1 and some even played in the NFL, so they know what they’re talking about.”
Juneau’s Phillip Fenumiai accumulated a career-high 343 all-purpose yards in Western Oregon University’s 48-42 victory over Humboldt State in Arcata, California.
The junior quarterback completed 11-of-21 passes for a career-high 262 yards and three touchdowns. He threw scoring strikes 36, 46 and 27 yards in the first, second and third quarters.
He also matched his career high with 81 yards on the ground.
His 262 yards marked the first time he surpassed the 200-yard barrier and was nearly 100 yards more than his previous career high of 169 set two weeks ago.
Fenumiai, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has completed 41-of-77 passes for 574 yards in four games this season. He has six touchdowns compared to just two interceptions.
Caleb Holley of Anchorage continues to pump life into the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The 25-year-old wide receiver went over the century mark in yards to help the Roughriders beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 20-18 in the Canadian Football League.
He caught eight passes for 110 yards and now ranks among the top 30 in the league in receiving yards  despite playing in only six of 13 games.
Saskatchewan is 2-4 with the Alaskan on the field, and 1-6 without him.
Holley, of East High fame, has twice cracked the 100-yard benchmark. He posted career high 10-121-1 totals in Week 11.
Lance Wright of North Pole had his best game and found the end zone for the Rice University football team.
The junior wide receiver accounted for a career-high 55 yards and hauled in a first career touchdown in a 42-35 loss to North Texas in double overtime in the Lone Star state.
Wright, of North Pole High fame, finished with three catches.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder caught a 17-yard pass for a first down in the first quarter that helped set up a field goal.
On Rice’s next possession he caught a 14-yard TD pass that gave the Owls a 10-0 lead.
In the third quarter, Wright grabbed a 24-yarder for a first down that set up another field goal to give Rice 20-14 advantage.
Wright, who missed the majority of last year with an injury, has bagged 11-117-1 totals in eight career games.
Anchorage’s Jordan Tufaga flirted with the century mark on the ground and keyed three scoring drives to help the Central Washington University football team win big.
The freshman running back rushed for a career-high 90 yards on just nine carries in a 40-18 victory over Dixie State in Ellensburg, Washington.
He totaled four more yards than Dixie State did as a team.
Tufaga, of Dimond High fame, enjoyed his longest run of 44 yards in the second quarter to set up a touchdown that gave Central Washington a 27-3 lead.
In the third quarter, he accounted for 24 of his team’s 83 yards on a second scoring drive. In the fourth, he finished off his day with a pair of 9-yard runs to set up a third touchdown.
In two games the 5-foot-10 back has run the ball 16 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also returns kickoffs.
Jonah Theisen of Kenai got a leg up on his little brother as the two Black Hills State University runners both cracked the top 10 at the Gage McSpadden Invitational in Spearfish, South Dakota.
The sophomore clocked a 6-kilometer time of 20 minutes, 38.9 seconds to finish fourth out of 35 finishers in the men’s race.
Freshman Jordan Theisen placed seventh in 20:54.1, outkicking a teammate at the line.
Jonah Theisen owns five top-10 finishes in nine career races and qualified for the NCAA D2 championships last season.
You could say the Theisen boys were born to run. Their father Bob ran at Bemidji State in Minnesota.
The Theisens weren’t the only brothers from Alaska at the Gage McSpadden Invitational.
Seward’s Michael Marshall of Black Hills State beat his brother Jacob Marshall of Montana State Billings by 25 seconds as both finished in the top 30.
Nobody in NCAA D3 football has thrown more touchdown passes this season than Conor Feckley of Anchorage.
The first-year starting quarterback for the University of Dubuque in Iowa has tossed 15 TDs in just three games to lead the Spartans to a 3-0 start and 21st national ranking.
Feckley, of West High fame, has completed 58.3 percent of his passes [74-for-127] for 1,183 yards. His yardage ranks third nationally.
Best of all, his TD-to-INT ratio is 15-1.
The junior signal caller has been lights out this season, highlighted by a 634-yard, 8-TD performance in a 70-53 victory over Bethel in the season opener.
The 634 yards rank No. 5 in D3 all-time history.
Feckley is also responsible for 98 points this season, which is also No. 1 in the country.
Usually an offensive threat, Rachel Gregg of Eagle River proved she could get the job done on defense as well.
The Lewis-Clark State College sophomore middle hitter enjoyed a big weekend series with 34 digs, four blocks and a .923 reception percentage.
Her effort helped the Warriors upset NAIA ranked teams No. 22 Montana Tech and No. 16 Carroll College.
Gregg, of Chugiak High fame, collected eight digs, two aces and two blocks in a sweep of Montana Tech before notching a career-high 26 digs while playing nearly flawless serve receive and adding two blocks in a five-setter against Carroll.
Earlier this season against Olivet Nazarene, the 6-foot Alaskan slammed a season-high 17 kills.
Overall she has 99 kills in 11 matches.
After enduring a few tough-to-swallow seasons, Palmer’s Allison Leigh is finally enjoying the taste of victory with the Quinnipiac University volleyball team.
Leigh is the team’s best two-way player as the Bobcats have won 10 of 15 matches to start the NCAA D1 season.
The 10 wins matches Quinnipiac’s total from the previous three seasons [10-85].
Leigh, of Colony High fame, missed most of last season with an injury.
She leads Quinnipiac with 78 blocks and ranks fifth with 114 kills.
The 6-foot-3 middle hitter leads the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with a .298 hitting percentage and 1.34 blocks per set average.
Whitney Williams of Anchorage won her fifth career doubles tennis tournament with Abilene Christian University after teaming with Erin Walker to win the Midland Racquet Club Invitational in Texas.
Williams, a junior, and Walker, a senior, captured the title over the second-seeded team from North Texas by winning a tiebreaker in the final.
The Abilene Christian duo rallied from a 7-4 deficit in the game score to force the tiebreak. There, Williams and Walker came back from a 5-2 hole to win six of the next seven points and prevail 8-6.
It marked the first Midland championship by Abilene Christian since 2010.
In reaching the finals, sixth-seeded Williams and Walker survived a grueling stretch of matches against high-profile teams.
They beat unseeded North Texas 8-2 in the first round and then doubled up Nebraska 8-4 to reach the quarterfinals. That win was followed by another triumph over the Cornhuskers, this time beating the third seeds 8-3.
In the semifinals, Williams and Walker scored a giant 8-4 upset of the top-seeded team from Texas Tech.
Kali Trevithick of Anchorage spends the majority of her time outside the state training with the U.S. National U-16 women’s soccer team.
But she still considers Alaska home.
Soon she will call UCLA home.
The marvelous midfielder has committed to the Bruins for 2019. She is a sophomore in high school and plays for the San Diego Surf club team.
Trevithick is also a member of the national U-16 team that is currently in the Netherlands for a training camp and three matches, one of which will be against the Netherlands U-17 Women’s National Team.
This age group is in the second year of a two-year cycle before becoming the U-18s and then the U-20s with the goal of playing in the 2020 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
There are four active NCAA D1 women’s soccer players with 30 goals and 20 assists for their careers.
Two of them are from one Anchorage family.
Ariela Lewis last night joined twin sister Aaliyah Lewis in the exclusive 30/20 Club after bagging two goals and an assist for Alabama State University in an 8-0 win over Faulkner in Montgomery, Alabama.
“To be able to say I’ve achieved such a goal is a great feeling, especially knowing my sister is also one of the other four in the club,” Ariela told me. “That makes it even cooler.”
It was the fifth goal and first assist for Ariela this season. The redshirt junior forward has 32 goals and 20 assists in 46 career games.
“Not only am I glad I reached this goal for myself, but I feel like none of this was possible if it wasn’t for my parents, coaches and teammates who helped me,” she said.
It’s odd that Ariela hadn’t assisted on a goal until last night because she has a reputation as being a playmaker and getting other players involved.
“I love being a team player and when I set up a teammate’s goal it really puts a smile on my face,” Ariela said.
It helps having her sister at her side. Aaliyah is a two-time conference player of the year and the greatest scorer in Alabama State history.
The senior forward collected two goals and two assists against Faulkner to increase her totals to 47 goals and 28 assists in 67 games.
Together, the former Dimond High all-stars have combined for 70 goals at Alabama State to make up one of the top sister scoring acts in NCAA history.
“I would absolutely trade this for an NCAA berth,” Ariela said.
Alabama State has been close, losing the championship game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2015 and 2013, which carried an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
“To be in the NCAA Tournament would mean everything to me and my teammates,” Ariela said.
Anchorage’s Sam Zumbro posted her third shutout and remained undefeated in goal for the Colorado School of Mines women’s soccer team.
The senior keeper made four saves in a 2-0 win over Metro State in Colorado to open play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
She has allowed only one goal in 436 minutes this season.
Colorado School of Mines is 5-0 in NCAA D2 play.
Zumbro, of Service High fame, has shut out West Texas A&M, UC San Diego and Metro State.
The 5-foot-11 keeper has 11 career shutouts and a 13-2-1 record over the last two years.
When the Carroll College volleyball team needed its biggest hitter to step up in the league opener, Holly Morehouse of Anchorage delivered.
The 6-foot outside hitter slammed a team-high 14 kills with a .306 attack percentage as No. 16 Carroll College defeated No. 22 Montana Tech in four sets in the Frontier Conference.
Morehouse, of South High fame, ranks second on the team with 153 kills after leading the NAIA team with 314 a year ago.
In three seasons the junior has banged home 560 career kills.
She has reached double figures in 11 of 14 matches, including a season-high 15 earlier this month.
Carroll College improved to 12-2 on the season.
Colorado Mesa University junior goalkeeper Katelyn Houston of Anchorage anchored a defensive unit that held Humboldt State scoreless in a 2-0 win in NCAA D2 women’s soccer action.
It was the first college shutout for Houston in just her second game at Colorado Mesa.
Houston, of Grace Christian High fame, spent her previous three seasons at the NCAA D1 University of South Carolina. She gained a ton of knowledge but did not play.
She is 1-1 in two career starts and boasts a 1.00 goals against average.
Anchorage’s Sagan Osborne swings fast and plays fast so it’s no surprise he started fast for the Dickinson State University baseball team last weekend.
The senior shortstop went 5-for-8 with a home run, triple and three RBIs in a two-game series against Mayville State to open the NAIA fall ball season in North Dakota.
“It doesn’t take me too long to get into a rhythm generally,” he told me. “I’m the type of hitter who doesn’t need to spend hours and hours in a cage to get ready. I like to take 15 to 20 swings and feel a rhythm, and then I’m good to go.”
Osborne, of Dimond High fame, is coming off an all-conference junior season when he hit .353 and drove in 42 runs in 52 games in his first year at Dickinson State.
He has stayed locked in from one year to the next because he doesn’t make any at-bat any bigger from one to the next. Not putting pressure on himself – among other things – allows him to stay relaxed.
“I even sing to myself sometimes at the plate to stay loose,” he said. “It’s just little things that you pick up over the years that allow you to be able to roll into a season on the right foot instead of starting slowly and not helping your team.”
A gap hitter with good speed, Osborne bagged 24 extra-base hits last season with 21 doubles, two triples and a home run. He already has a triple and dinger this fall.
With only 11 base on balls in 200 career plate appearances, it’s obvious he goes to the plate looking to take a hack. But he’s not just swinging to swing.
He reads the pitcher, the defense and even the weather.
“My triple was on a low inside curveball but there was a strong wind blowing across left field so I knew that trying to pull it in the air would only result in a fly out, so I tried to stay inside it more and drive it to the right side and I put a good swing on it and drove it to the right-center gap,” he said.
Anchorage’s Chad Nading inched closer to winning his first championship as a professional as the right-handed relief pitcher helped the Wichita Wingnuts advance to the American Association Championship Series.
Wichita defeated Sioux City 3-1 in the best-of-5 semifinal series to advance to the championship series, which starts Wednesday against the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
Nading, of East High fame, made three appearances during the semifinal series, throwing a total of three innings to extend his scoreless streak to 16 innings.
The 6-foot-6 setup man has a 1.70 ERA in 43 games this season. He is 0-1 with two saves and a bunch of holds as one of the top options coming out of the bullpen.
Nading played college ball at UNLV and was twice drafted by MLB clubs before embarking on a pro career in the minor leagues. He bounced around for three years and then went to Japan before coming back to the States.
He was out of the game a year ago.
Now he’s back, better than ever, and close to capturing his first championship since his high school days.
Nading hasn’t allowed a run since Aug. 5, a stretch of 17 games over five weeks.
The American Association Championship Series begins in Canada with Games 1 and 2 at Winnipeg before going to Wichita, Kansas, for the remainder of the best-of-5.
One week he’s etching his name in the NCAA record book. The next he’s winning games with touchdown passes on 4th-and-long.
Conor Feckley is definitely feeling it.
The University of Dubuque quarterback from Anchorage drove his team 95 yards in the final stages of the fourth quarter, capped with a 43-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-12, to highlight a 28-24 over Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Feckley, of West High fame, actually threw for 104 yards on the final drive because he was sacked three times. He completed 20-of-42 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
Last week, he threw for 634 yards and 8 touchdowns in a 70-53 shootout win over Bethel University. It was the fifth most passing yards in NCAA D3 history.
The 6-foot junior has only three career starts at quarter, but man has he made them count. In his first start last season, he led Dubuque to a victory that clinched the team’s Iowa Conference championship.
In two games this year he has throw for 898 yards with an 11-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Oh yeah, his QB rating is 180.6.
As a two-time captain of the South Dakota State University football team, Zach Lujan of Anchorage couldn’t sulk when he lost his job as the starting quarterback.
The senior signal caller stayed true to his team-first roots and supported his coach’s decision.
And he stays ready when his number is called.
Lujan on Saturday came in relief in the fourth quarter and delivered a touchdown pass to put the finishing touches on a 56-28 victory over Drake in NCAA D1 action in Brookings, South Dakota.
To sweeten the deal, Lujan entered the game at the same time as junior center Justin Moore, who hiked the ball to him at South High.
Lujan completed 3-of-3 passes for 49 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown toss to cap a 11-play, 69-yard scoring drive.
It was the 28th career TD pass for Lujan in 20 career games – one of the highest totals by an Alaska quarterback in college.
Lujan has an 11-4 record as a starter, including last season’s 41-38 victory at Kansas – South Dakota State’s first win over a FBS school from a Power 5 conference.
Last season he was the fastest quarterback in school history to reach 1,000 yards.
When called on, he will be ready. For now, though, he’s enjoying his final year of playing college football. And he’s getting to do it with a couple of buddies from high school.
In addition to Moore, former South linebacker Thomas Hopp also plays for the Jackrabbits. The junior newcomer made his first career tackle in the win over Drake.
Sacred Heart defensive back Matt Ilalio of Anchorage made some big plays during his team’s 42-14 win over Valparaiso.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior registered two tackles, a sack and quarterback hurry. One tackle went for a 10-yard loss.
Ilalio, of Service High fame, grabbed his first career interception last year. He also produced his first safety.
He has played 17 games since 2014 with the NCAA I-AA team from Fairfield, Connecticut.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is world renowned for specializing in aviation and aerospace.
Even the women’s soccer team is on the rise.
With the help of three Alaskans, Embry-Riddle of Prescott, Arizona, has posted a 3-0-1 record to start the NAIA season.
Sophomore Callie Orizotti of Anchorage is a starting midfielder who is averaging 70 minutes per game. She played the full 90 against San Diego Christian and netted a goal against St. Katherine’s.
It was the third career goal for Orizotti, of South High fame. She’s a Global Security & Intelligence Studies major.
Freshman Erica Heil of Anchorage has also started all four games and ranks among the team leaders in playing time with an average of 79 minutes per game.
She bounces back between forward and defense.
She is a Mechanical Engineering major.
Heil, of Dimond High fame, has seen her playing time steadily increase with each match, going from 68 minutes to 75 to 84 to 87.
Embry-Riddle has outscored opponents 8-2 this season.
Megan Currier of Anchorage has been a major spark off the bench.
The freshman forward netted assists in each of her first two college games.
Currier, of South High fame, is averaging 32 minutes per game.
She is a Global Security & Intelligence Studies major.
Before the game, Glenn Maiden Jr. of Fairbanks was just a backup quarterback.
Glenn Maiden Jr
By halftime, he was a star.
Summoned off the bench late in the second quarter for the Mendocino football team, Maiden replaced the starting quarterback and threw a touchdown pass the first time he touched the ball.
The freshman finished with three TD passes as Mendocino beat Cabrillo 40-20 in the California Community Colleges Athletic Association opener.
Maiden, of Lathrop High fame, completed 12-of-20 passes for 222 yards.
With Mendocino trailing 14-13 at the end of the first half, the coaches made a change at quarterback hoping to spark the offense. It worked as the Alaskan threw a 30-yard TD pass on his first play under center.
Maiden also made sure to get former Lathrop players Joceice Cannon and Ryan Perdue involved in the offense. The three of them used to make plays for the Malemutes, now they are playmakers for Mendocino.
Maiden’s second TD pass went to fellow freshman Cannon for 31 yards in the third quarter. Perdue, a sophomore, caught three passes for a team-high 95 yards.
The Wichita Wingnuts are used to making the playoffs, Chad Nading of Anchorage is not.
Wichita will make its sixth consecutive appearance in the American Association postseason starting tonight with Game 1 in the best-of-5 series against Sioux City.
It’ll be the first taste of playoff baseball for the 28-year-old in four seasons as a professional.
“We had quite the champagne shower and party after clinching the Southern League championships,” Nading told me. “But now it’s all business and guys are ready for the six most important wins of the year in the playoffs.”
Games 1 and 2 of the league semifinals will be in Sioux City before returning to Wichita for the remainder of the series. The winner advances to the league championship series.
Wichita won the 2014 title.
“This has been my favorite team and most productive season of my career,” Nading said. “It’s very important for my future because now I have solid numbers to sell myself to affiliated teams for next spring training.”
The 6-foot-6 hard-throwing right-hander has posted a 1.83 ERA over 39.1 innings in 40 games this season. The relief pitcher has an 0-1 record with two saves and 30 strikeouts.
He carries a 13-inning scoreless streak into the playoffs.
“I have had my best velocity this last month,” said Nading, who throws as hard as 98 mph. “I have been using my 2-seam fastball to get ahead in counts, then hard sliders down in the zone, keeping the ball on the ground and getting strikeouts.”
Alabama State’s Ariela Lewis of Anchorage has been named Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Soccer Player of the Week.
The senior scored in three consecutive games last week with goals against Troy on Tuesday, Jacksonville on Friday and North Florida on Sunday to become the SWAC’s leading scorer.
She is currently one assist shy of becoming the fourth active player in Division 1 women’s soccer to reach the 30-20 club for goals and assists in their careers.
Lewis now sits at 31 goals and 19 assists.