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 3,500 stories on over 500 Alaska athletes.

Follow us on Twitter: @AKsportshall, Instagram: alaska_sports_hall, and Facebook.

Click here to read more about Van Williams and the Alaska Sports Blog.

May 25, 2018

Dylan Baker baseball

Dylan Baker

With Dylan Baker of Juneau having been a starter for most of his professional career, his coaches with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers aren’t afraid to stretch him out.

The rocket right-hander has entered in the eighth inning in each of his last three appearances, an indication of his value. Most other closers are used almost exclusively in the ninth.

Baker has welcomed the added workload and solidified his status as the team’s go-to pitcher at the end of games.

He has collected a win and a save in back-to-back appearances and strung together 6.2 innings of scoreless relief over his last five games.

He pitched 1.1 innings and earned the win after his team earned a 2-1 walkoff victory in the 10th over the Corpus Christi Hooks.

Two days earlier, he recorded a six-out save to close the door on a 9-6 win over the San Antonio Missions. He retired five batters on ground balls, including two comebackers.

Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has a 3-1 record with two saves and a 3.18 ERA over his last 10 appearances. In that span he struck out eight batters in 11.1 innings.

May 24, 2018

Colter Lasher basketball

Colter Lasher

A year after losing in the league semifinals, the Geraldton Buccaneers upgraded with 6-foot-7 forward Colter Lasher of Anchorage.

The investment has paid off as the Alaskan leads the team in scoring at 23.1 points per game as well as leading the Buccs to a third-place showing at the midway point of the season in the Australian pro league.

Lasher, of Dimond High fame, has reached double figures in all 11 games, highlighted by his season-high 35 points (one game after netting 33).

At Houston Baptist University, a NCAA D1 school in the Southland Conference, he started 97 of 117 career games and scored 1,250 points – the eighth most among Alaskans to play at the D1 level.

He brought his jump shot and his lunch box down under.

Lasher is also among the team leaders with 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He has four double-doubles.

His shooting percentages are .529FG/.3403PT/.650FT.

Geraldton is 9-2 on the season, one game back of second-place Perth.

May 23, 2018

Marina Cummiskey swimming

Marina Cummiskey

Kodiak’s Marina Cummiskey is headed to the deep end of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

The reigning Alaska high school swimmer of the year will continue her career at Simon Fraser University, a NCAA D2 school in Canada.

As a senior, she won two individual state championships and helped Kodiak win a relay and medal in another relay at the state swimming and diving championships in Anchorage.

Cummiskey, of Kodiak High fame, won the girls 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly state titles.

She also won a title in the 200 medley relay, leading off with a 27-second split in the 50 back.

Cummiskey holds dual Canadian/USA citizenship.

“After considering several universities in both the United States and Canada, I ultimately felt that Simon Fraser best fit my personal goals both academically and athletically,” Cummiskey told the school’s website. “I am proud to become part of Canada’s NCAA team and to live in Canada and embrace that part of my identity.”

May 22, 2018

Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

University of Northern Illinois senior Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks batted 5-for-13 in the final three-game series of his season and got a base hit in his final at-bat to cap his college career.

The center fielder made his last game count as he went 2-for-5 and keyed a three-run 11th inning as the Huskies ended the year with a 6-3 victory over Eastern Michigan 6-3 in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

In his final at-bat, he singled to advance the runner to third, stole second, went to third on wild pitch and scored a run to complete the scoring.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, raised his batting average 20 points over the last three weeks of the season.

Bynum was drafted by the MLB in the 18th round out of high school in 2014 but instead went to college, first at Arizona Western College and then Northern Illinois, where he has enjoyed historic success by becoming the just the third Alaskan since 2001 to collect 200 base hits in college.

He also eclipsed the 100-run and 100-RBI marks for his career.

May 21, 2018

Ariela Lewis soccer

Ariela Lewis

Fresh off a phenomenal college soccer career, Anchorage’s Ariela Lewis has moved on to play in the Northwest Premier League.

No surprise, she has made an immediate impact.

Lewis notched a goal and assist in just her second game to lead the Seattle Stars to a 2-0 win over the Washington Timbers in Tukwila, Washington.

The game was a rematch of last year’s final in the Northwest Premier League, an elite adult women’s soccer league prepares for its third season of play.

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, assisted on the first goal in the 23rd minute. It was 2-0 in the 44th when the Alaskan turned scorer herself.

Lewis wrapped up her career last fall at Alabama State University, where as a senior she led the NCAA D1 Southwestern Athletic Conference with 12 goals and finished second with 26 points in 20 games.

She finished with a 143 career points on 57 goals and 29 assists.

May 20, 2018

Sierra Rosenzweig softball

Sierra Rosenzweig

Anchorage’s Sierra Rosenzweig was part of the go-ahead rally that propelled the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the Super Regional title and punch a ticket to the NCAA D3 Softball Championships.

With the game tied in the fifth inning, Rosenzweig led off with a walk and later scored the go-ahead run in a 7-5 victory over Williams College in the deciding game of the best-of-3 series between nationally ranked teams in the Williamstown Super Regional in Massachusetts.

The 20th-ranked Engineers battled back from a 4-1 deficit to forge a 5-5 tie and eventually win, punching their ticket to the national tournament later this week in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

MIT (38-9-1) is seeded No. 4 and will face No. 5 Luther on Thursday in the first round of the double elimination tournament.

Rosenzweig, of East High fame, is a sophomore starting left fielder for MIT.

In 44 games she hit .295 with a home run, two triples and 16 RBIs. She added 19 runs and six stolen bases.

In both Game 3s of the Regional and the Super Regional, Rosenzweig walked and eventually scored on the go-ahead base hit.

May 19, 2018

Tesa Finley softball

Tesa Finley

Wasilla Tesa Finley was part of a North Dakota State College of Science team that made a nice run at the National Junior College Athletic Association D3 Softball Championships.

The Wildcats reached the final day of the national tournament in Rochester, Minnesota, before losing 6-0 to Herkimer College in the third-place game.

Finley, of Colony High fame, alternated starts at catcher and went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs in her two games.

North Dakota State College of Science went 2-0 in the tournament when the Alaskan started behind the plate. Overall, the team won 18 of 23 when she was on the field.

Finley, a freshman, hit .246 with a home run, five RBIs and six runs.

May 18, 2018

Kacey Duffield softball

Kacey Duffield

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and Kacey Duffield of Fairbanks was fabulous down the stretch for the University of Texas El Paso.

An excellent ending to the softball season helped the junior first baseman turn in a terrific season in her first year after transferring to the NCAA D1 school in Conference USA.

In the last month, Duffield raised her batting average from .220 to .290, drove in 11 of 22 RBIs, smashed two of five home runs and collected 20 of 38 hits.

Her late-season hitting surge was on display during the final series of the season when she went 7-for-10 against Louisiana Tech University.

In Game 2, she drove in the tying run with an RBI single in the fifth inning. The hit came on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. UTEP won the game 7-4 after trailing 4-0.

In Game 3, she doubled in her team’s first run in the fifth inning and then doubled again in the seventh to set up the winning run in a 6-5 victory after the team fell behind 4-0 for the second straight day.

Duffield, of Lathrop High fame, was among the UTEP leaders in extra-base hits, runs batted in and slugging percentage.

She played her first two seasons of college softball at Indian Hills Community College, where she produced impressive power numbers with 31 home runs and 126 RBIs in 105 games.

Hannah Hogenson hockey

Hannah Hogenson

Hannah Hogenson of Anchorage was the only Alaskan and just one of two players from the Pacific region to earn an invite to the U.S. women’s U18 Select Camp.

The USA Hockey National Player Development Camp will include a total of 70 players, with Hogenson being one of six goaltenders.

Hogenson, of South High fame, has proven to be one of the best netminders for her age group and she’s built up her resume by beating the boys.

As a freshman in high school she helped the South Wolverines reach the 2017 ASAA Division I state championship game.

And twice she was part of an Alaska Oilers team that won the Pacific District Tournament and advanced to the USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships.

In 2017 it was with the U15 squad. In 2016 it was the U14 group.

Hogenson is the second player from the Alaska Oilers program this month to earn national notoriety after Anchorage’s Hunter Strand was named to the U.S. men’s U17 team for the 2018-19 season.

May 17, 2018

Zach Miller from Colorado became the first elite runner to sign up for the Crow Pass Crossing shortly after registration opened on May 1.

His buddies Tim Tollefson and David Laney — both have finished on the podium at the prestigious Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 100-miler — then followed suit.

No elite trail runner from the Lower 48 had entered Crow Pass in the iconic backcountry footrace’s 33-year history — and then suddenly there were three.

Alaskan Scott Patterson, a four-time champion who owns two of the top four times at Crow Pass, welcomes the competition.

Scott Patterson

“All three of these guys bring some serious accolades and talent to Crow Pass and I look forward to standing on the start line with them,” said Patterson, a 2018 Nordic skiing Olympian who delivered a stunning 11th place in the 50-kilometer event last February in South Korea.

Miller’s resume includes wins at three high-profile 50-milers — the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco, the Lake Sonoma 50 and the JFK 50 in Maryland — plus a title at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115K in Portugal. He’s also placed among the Top 10 the past two years at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 100-miler in France, arguably the most competitive 100-miler in the world.

Miller, 29, lives, trains and works as a caretaker at Barr Camp (elevation 10,200 feet) on Colorado’s famous Pike’s Peak.

On May 12, Miller, representing Team USA at the ITRA Trail World Championships in Spain, held a 3 ½ minute lead at 52 kilometers of the 85K race. That was nothing unusual, as Miller is known for his no-holds-barred racing style. Unfortunately for him, the aggressive tactics didn’t work out as he struggled with dehydration and ultimately placed eighth.

Zach Miller at the Trail World Championships. Photo:

Meanwhile, Tollefson, 33, and Laney, 29, have had less domestic success than Miller but have made their marks at UTMB, where until recently Americans had a history of underperforming.

Tollefson, a physical therapist in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., placed third at UTMB the past two years, including a 2017 run of 19 hours, 53 minutes.

Laney, 29, was fourth at UTMB in 2016 and third in 2015.

While Crow Pass, at 22.5 extremely technical miles, is not even a quarter the distance of UTMB, Tollefson says the mileage is in his wheelhouse.

“I’ve only run two 100-milers and my favorite distance is still 50K,” Tollefson said via email.

Laney, of Ashland, Ore., has focused on longer races in recent years.

“But a few years ago I was racing 5K’s and 10K’s,” said Laney, whose girlfriend is from Anchorage. “I think this will feel more like a 50-miler than a 24-miler with all the climbing and technical nature of the race.”

Laney has visited Girdwood and run on trails at Alyeska Resort, but hasn’t yet been on the Crow Pass trail.

How did Crow Pass even get on their radar?

The link was Billy Yang, a runner and filmmaker from Los Angeles who raced Crow Pass in 2015 (finishing 79th).

“This was all Billy’s doing,” Tollefson explained. “He texted me one morning an Ultrasignup page and asked if I would ever consider this race. I had never heard of Crows Pass but seeing Zach on the list I thought ‘Sounds grand!’ (I) signed up and then immediately texted Laney to peer pressure him in as well.”

It’s a good thing they acted with urgency. The race reached capacity (150 entrants) in just over 7 hours and there’s now a wait list of 36 hopeful runners.

The event will be newly directed by the nonprofit Healthy Futures, which takes over from the University of Alaska Anchorage running program. After the fatal bear mauling on Bird Ridge in June 2017, Crow Pass was canceled for the first time ever.

The race begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 28. Participants have six hours to travel from the Crow Pass Trailhead near Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center. Along the way, they’ll experience a 3 ½-mile climb, run downhill through waist-high vegetation with large hard-to-see rocks underfoot, cross the frigid Eagle River at the halfway point, possibly encounter yellowjackets, moose and bears, scramble through a “chutes and ladders” section, hop over deadfall and navigate a trail that is defined but unmarked.

Patterson said Crow Pass rookies may also have to deal with the frustration of briefly losing the main trail.

“For first-time racers, not getting lost is a big deal,” Patterson said. “I am talking about … the little mentally taxing wrong turns where you run into a campsite, have to reevaluate, backtrack, and get back into your flow for the race. In my first year, I had two significant wrong turns, even having run the course only two weeks prior.”

That year, Patterson, then 19, finished sixth in 3:19. He’s since entered Crow Pass four times races and won all four (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016). In 2015, Patterson clocked 2:56:13, a mark that is just 89 seconds shy of Geoff Roes’ record (2:54:44) from 2010, a year in which the Juneau runner won the prestigious Ultrarunner of the Year Award.

Patterson also notched 2:58 in 2016 and 3:00 in 2013.

“The record is what keeps me coming back,” said Patterson, who has trained more than 1,000 hours in each of the last two years and expects to average 25-30 hours of exercise per week this summer.

“I have been close in the past, but have started to realize that my cruiser winning pace is just not quite enough. I need some serious competition out there. Thus I am super excited to have the three out-of-state pros in the race. It should make for an exciting battle.”

Healthy Futures has also created a new incentive: a $500 prize to a male or female runner who breaks the record and wins the race.

Patterson, also the defending Mount Marathon Race champion, isn’t the only Alaskan with stout credentials entered. Allan Spangler is one of only four runners to break the 3-hour milestone with his 2:59:23 from 2015. His 3:01 won Crow Pass in 2014.

Other Alaskan entrants include AJ Schirack, the fifth-fastest Crow Pass runner in history (3:02 in 2016); upstart Kenneth Brewer (3:06 PR); Cody Priest (3:10 PR) and Ben Marvin (3:12 PR).

Eric Strabel, the only other man to break 3 hours at Crow Pass, plans to instead run the Matanuska Peak Challenge on Aug. 4.

However, Strabel’s wife, Denali, is part of a strong women’s field that also includes Laura Fox, Alison Barnwell, Heather Edic, Abby Jahn and Christy Marvin of Palmer, a three-time champion (2014-16).

In 2014, Marvin had a chance to break Nancy Pease’s 1990 record of 3:26:20, but took a bathroom break late in the race and finished an agonizing 24 seconds off the mark.

Pease won the race nine times, including tying Bill Spencer for the overall win in 1990. Only Marvin (three times) and Olympian Holly Brooks (one time) have come within 10 minutes of Pease’s record since she set it 28 years ago.

Will this be the year one or both of the records fall?

“A record is highly dependent on how the race unfolds as well as the race conditions,” Patterson opined. “One of the biggest challenges for Crow Pass is the lack of visibility when running. Not being able to see one’s feet on a highly technical trail usually imposes a speed limit for certain sections. The key to a record is to have somewhat reduced vegetation and make up time in the other areas.”

And if conditions are optimal?

Said Patterson: “With good conditions and a competitive field, I think the record could not just be broken, but smashed.”

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor and Crow Pass Race Director

May 16, 2018

Morgan Hill softball

Morgan Hill

A sour end to the season shouldn’t overshadow Anchorage’s Morgan Hill sweet showing at the plate for the University of Missouri St. Louis at the NCAA D2 Midwest Regional.

Despite winning Game 1, the visiting Tritons dropped the next two games to lose the series to Illinois Springfield and end their season with a 35-24 record.

Hill, of East High fame, posted a .400 on-base percentage in the series and drove in her team’s lone run in the final game, a 4-1 loss. The sophomore left fielder collected three hits in all, including two hits in Game 2.

Missouri St. Louis was 8-2 this year when the Alaskan had an RBI.

Earlier this season, she had a 5-for-5 game, including her second career home run, and knocked in five 5 RBIs.

Hill has started 75 of 78 career games and her career batting average is .272. She’s also a two-time Great Lakes Valley Conference All-Academic selection.

May 15, 2018

Parker Johnson baseball

Parker Johnson

The bright lights of the NAIA National Baseball Tournament didn’t intimidate Indiana Wesleyan University freshman Parker Johnson of Anchorage.

The third baseman went 3-for-9 and got base hits in both games as Indiana Wesleyan suffered consecutive losses and was eliminated from the Lawrenceville Bracket in Georgia.

“The national tournament was intense,” he told me. “I’m really excited to start the journey to get back there next year and put our team in a better position to make it to Lewiston.”

Johnson, of South High fame, batted 2-for-5 with a double in a 10-7 loss to Point University of Georgia and 1-for-4 in a 12-2 loss to Lyon College of Arkansas.

Overall, he hit .275 in 48 games with eight doubles and 20 RBIs.

“The season was fun. I enjoyed playing so many games as opposed to the typical season in Alaska,” Johnson said. “I made a lot of adjustments on and off the field to try and improve my performance in games.

“The biggest part about college ball was learning what you’re good at and what you suck at and trying to improve the things you suck at quickly.”

May 14, 2018

Michael Todd track and field

Michael Todd

Liberty University’s Michael Todd of Anchorage was part of the victorious 4×400-meter relay team at the Big South Conference Championships in High Point, North Carolina.

Entering the meet on the NCAA East Preliminary Round bubble, the relay team improved its chances at qualifying after lowering its season-best time from 3:09.00 to 3:08.19. That time was a meet and facility record.

That 4×400 squad’s time became the fifth-fastest in Liberty and Big South history.

Todd, of ACS fame, ran the second leg in a 47.4-second split. Last year he led off the relay with a sub-48 split as the team placed second for the second straight year.

It was the first Big South individual or relay title for him since his 800 indoor championship in 2016.

Todd has also racked up three team championships with Liberty, which has won a record 12 straight conference championships and 23 in 25 years.

Tanner Ealum track and field

Tanner Ealum

Anchorage’s Tanner Ealum was one of many Liberty University track and field stars to add her name to the Big South Conference record book.

She won the 800-meter title in record fashion as the Flames burned the competition with a meet record 289 points and the largest margin of victory since 1999 at the conference championships in High Point, North Carolina

Ealum, of ACS fame, posted a time of 2:06.89 in the 800 to set records for the meet and facility at Vet Stadium.

It was the third career Big South title for the sophomore, who also won the 400 indoor and outdoor titles last season as a freshman.

Ealum was named Big South Women’s Freshman of the Year after becoming the first Liberty woman to win the Big South indoor 400 title, along with a victory in the 4×400 relay and a third-place finish in the 200.

She’s already a 10-time All-Big South performer in just two years.

May 13, 2018

Allie Ostrander track running

Allie Ostrander

Kenai’s Allie Ostrander of Boise State University racked up 18 of her team’s 84 points and won her fifth career individual title at the Mountain West Track and Field Championships in Clovis, Calif.

She won the 5,000-meter run and turned in a runner-up finish in the 1,500 to lead the women’s team to a fourth-place finish.

The redshirt sophomore pulled away from a University of New Mexico runner over the last mile and crossed the line with a time of 15:44.11, good for a new Mountain West Championship meet record.

The victory also maintains an impressive Bronco tradition in the 5k, as a Boise State woman has won the event in six of seven seasons.

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, finished behind teammate Alexis Fuller in the 1,500, with Fuller clocking a conference championship record time of 4:20.40 and the Alaskan crossing right on her heels in 4:20.82.

The Bronco duo worked together the whole way, leading to times that both broke the previous conference championship record that had held for 17 years.

Ostrander’s other Mountain West titles came in cross country in 2015, the 10,000 in 2017 and distance medley relay in 2016 and 2018.

Rachel Roelle Cross Country Track

Rachel Roelle

Anchorage’s Rachel Roelle of Eastern Oregon University ripped off a massive 11-second personal record in the 1,500-meter run at the Cascade Conference Championships in Hermiston, Oregon.

The senior clocked a time of 4:34.01 to break a 9-year-old school record and hit the NAIA national qualifying mark in earning a silver medal in the women’s final.

She wasn’t finished.

Roelle, of West High fame, dropped three seconds off her PR in finishing second in the 800 in 2:16.19.

She earned her third silver medal at the championships by running a 60.8-second split to help Eastern Oregon place second in the 4×400 relay.

“We wanted to let her take a break from the steeplechase prior to Nationals and run a few bonus races to hone her speed headed into Nationals in two weeks,” coach Ben Welch told me. “She made excellent use of the opportunity.”

Roelle will enter the NAIA Championships with the fastest time in the 3,000 steeplechase by a small margin.

The meet will take place May 24-26 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

At the University of Oregon Twilight meet last weekend she kicked her way to a PR in the steeple by running a 10:44.21 – the No. 1 time in the NAIA.

“There should be more in the tank too,” Welch said.

Welch, of Wasilla High fame, received the Cascade Conference’s Men’s Track and Field Coach of the Year award after leading the Mountaineers to the win. Welch earned the award for the fourth time in his career.

May 12, 2018

Whitney Shapp basketball

Whitney Shapp

Whitney Shapp of Anchorage joined the Wenatchee Valley College softball team in a pinch, but her big bat has provided a punch of adrenaline to the NWAC team.

The Knights improved to 10-1 when the second baseman records an RBI after she batted in a run in the fifth inning in an 8-6 victory over Big Bend Community College in Washington.

Shapp, of Dimond High fame, is hitting .350 with 20 RBIs in 21 games.

The Wenatchee Valley basketball player joined the school’s softball team when a few of the players got injured, but she’s more than an emergency replacement.

She’s a vital piece to a playoff team that’s posted a 23-9 league record in the NWAC’s East Region.

Shapp ranks second on the team with six home runs and is among the league leaders by averaging a bomb every 10 at-bats.

May 11, 2018

Tony Tomsich is in the best running shape of his life after recently clocking personal bests at both 10 kilometers and the half marathon.

Tony Tomsich (center) at Vancouver Sun Run

At the Vancouver Sun Run 10K on April 22, the former Fairbanksan now living in Vancouver, Canada, sped to a 12th place finish in 30 minutes, 38 seconds. That’s a pace of 4 minutes, 56 seconds per mile (At the same race, Forest Tarbath — formerly of Anchorage and now living in Seattle — finished in a solid 31:21).

Tomsich, 31, then outdid himself at the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on May 6. He  placed 3rd among more than 4,000 male runners by running 13.1 miles in 1:06:47 — a pace of 5:06.

“A stunning day, constant competitive pressure, and an amazing supportive cheer squad,” Tomsich wrote on Facebook. “This was a day that I will remember for a long time. Thank you to all that helped, supported and motivated me to crush my goals.”

Tomsich now has other goals. If he can run a marathon in faster than 2:19, he would qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Tomsich, who used to coach runners at the University of Alaska Anchorage, will take a crack at that milestone on Sept. 16 at the Berlin Marathon in Germany. Joining him will be Alaskan speedsters Chad Trammell, Jacob Kirk, Ryan Cox and Anna Dalton.

To break 2:19, Tomsich would need to average a pace of 5:19 for 26.2 miles.

If Tomsich runs faster than 2:23:56, he would also join the list of Top 10 Alaskan marathoners; Tomsich is already among Alaska’s 10 fastest at 1,500 meters, one mile and 3,000 meters.

Jahn and Barnwell crack Top 10 in China

Abby Jahn and Allison Barnwell of Anchorage each placed among the Top 10 women last month in China’s Yading Skyrace.

In the 29-kilometer event that was part of the 2018 Skyrunner World Series (there was also a 46K race), Jahn took eighth in 4 hours, 20 minutes and 26 seconds while Barnwell was 10th among 110 finishers in 4:30:58.

The race topped out at 4,786 meters (15,702 feet) and finished at 4,151 meters (13,618 feet), making it one of the highest-altitude running events on the planet.

Holly Page of Great Britain won in 3:32 while the top 10 also featured runners from New Zealand, Bahamas, France, Sweden, Spain and China.

Jahn and Barnwell are both entered in the 34th Crow Pass Crossing on July 28 that will be organized by Healthy Futures for the first time.

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

May 10, 2018

Gavin Petterson baseball

Gavin Petterson

With back-to-back wins, Soldotna’s Gavin Petterson continued his last-season surge for Columbia Basin College of the NWAC.

The right-handed pitcher struck out a season-high five batters in 5.2 innings of work in a 7-5 win over Yakima Valley.

This comes after he spun seven innings of three-hit ball in a 7-1 win over Big Bend Community College.

Petterson, of Kenai High fame, improved to 3-1 in 13 appearances, most of them in relief.

He’s also got three saves, showing his versatility on the bump.

Petterson has a 2.14 ERA over his last 12.2 innings.

May 9, 2018

Kamryn Frisk softball

Kamryn Frisk

In need of playmakers for its first season in softball, the Northwest Kansas Technical College Mavericks turned to Anchorage’s Kamryn Frisk.

And she delivered an MVP-type season.

Frisk was a terrific two-way player for the first-year NJCAA team as she hit .368 in 40 games as a first baseman and threw five complete games in eight starts at pitcher.

She also hit the first home run in school history.

Frisk, of Service High fame, finished second on the team with three home runs and 27 RBIs.

She appeared in 21 games as one of only two pitchers on the team.

Her performance in a 10-9 victory over Barton Community College in the second-to-last game spoke volumes about her impact at Northwest Kansas Tech.

Frisk went 3-for-3 with four RBIs to go with 4.2 innings of strong pitching in which she allowed just two earned runs.

May 8, 2018

Hunter Strand hockey

Hunter Strand

Anchorage’s Hunter Strand was the lone player from The Last Frontier to be named to the USA Hockey’s National Under-17 Team for the 2018-19 season.

He was one of 11 forwards and 21 players selected by the National Team Development Program.

“I am honored and proud to be selected to represent my country for the next two years,” he said on Twitter. “I would like to thank my family, friends, and coaches who have all helped me get to this point!”

Strand, of Alaska Oilers fame, will be part of the U17 team that will play in the United States Hockey League, the only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, as well as face off against select competition against teams in the North American Hockey League and Minnesota Elite League.

The team will also compete in three international tournaments, including the 2018 World U17 Hockey Challenge, 2018 Four Nations Tournament and 2019 Five Nations Tournament.

Strand has already committed to play college hockey at the University of Notre Dame.

May 7, 2018

Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks intimidated plenty of opponents in Alaska. Now the senior at Northern Illinois University is doing it in the Mid-American Conference.

Coaches at the University of Toledo opted to walk the former 18th-round MLB draft pick rather than pitch to him, a moved that paid off as Toledo won 6-3.

Earlier in the game, Bynum did most of the heavy lifting to help NIU built an early 3-0 lead thanks to his solo home run in the second inning and his speed in the fourth inning, when he walked, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly.

It was only last month that Bynum stole home and hit a home run in the same week.

And yet he’s not having a very good season.

His batting average is down, but his confidence is high after raising his average 24 points in the last three weeks.

He has three home runs this season and 12 for his college career – 5 with NIU and 7 with Arizona Western College.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, is the newest member of the 200-hit, 100-RBI, 100-run club among college players from Alaska.

May 6, 2018

Willy Homza baseball

Willy Homza

Anchorage’s Willy Homza enjoyed a big series at the plate against Cornell to end the season in a big way for Brown University.

The starting shortstop went 5-for-12 with three doubles and three RBIs in the three-game Ivy League series in Providence, Rhode Island.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior finished with 12 doubles on the season, the second-highest total in the NCAA D1 league.

Homza, of South High fame, hit a career-high .257 in 36 games and ended the season with an eight-game hitting streak.

He set other career highs in RBIs, stolen bases and slugging percentage.

May 5, 2018

Ally Hull soccer hockey

Ally Hull

After leading all freshmen on the Concordia University women’s hockey team in goals and points, Wasilla’s Ally Hull was rewarded with the Rookie of the Year award.

It was more than just that, though.

The forward started all 27 games and her team was 6-0 when she registered a point.

Hull, of Wasilla High fame, bagged three goals and three assists for six points for the NCAA D3 Falcons of Mequon, Wisconsin. She also had a +1 rating.

Twice, she had a direct hand in the only goal in 1-0 wins – once setting up the game winner against Morrisville State and once scoring the game winner against Finlandia.

She helped the Falcons advance to the Slaats Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Hull also plays soccer for Concordia Wisconsin and started 16 of 19 matches with one goal.

May 4, 2018

Paul Steffensen baseball

Paul Steffensen

The batting title chase in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference was a two-man race between a couple of guys from the same Kenai Peninsula community.

Kenai’s Paul Steffensen and Soldotna’s Jake Darrow battled down to the wire after spending much of the season matching each other knock for knock and taking turns leading the league in hitting.

Steffensen’s .404 average edged his baseball buddy for the title by just five percentage points in race that came down to the final few at-bats. Darrow finished at .399.

“Both of us are very highly competitive and I definitely wanted to beat him,” Darrow told me. “I think I probably wanted to beat him more than actually win the batting title, but I never wanted to see him fail. I just wanted to do better.”

Both players made Alaska baseball look good, especially the Kenai Legion Post 20 program where they played. Steffensen won a state title with the Twins in 2016 and Darrow won a state championship in 2012.

In 2018, both players were named first team all-stars in the ACCAC.

Jake Darrow baseball

Jake Darrow

“I think (our success) says a lot about baseball players out of the Kenai Peninsula and Alaska as a whole,” Darrow said. “It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you come from if you work hard enough.”

Steffensen, of Kenai High fame, is a freshman left fielder for Mesa Community College. He led the league with 84 hits in 54 games, including a league-high 10 triples. He was fifth with 117 total bases.

He got a base hit in his first game and kept it going, reaching 26 straight games, which is believed to be the longest hitting streak by a collegiate player from Alaska.

“I just try to simplify things as much as I can,” Steffensen told me. “It’s still baseball wherever you’re playing it. Yeah, the pitching is going to be better and the teams will be better, but for the most part it’s still baseball.”

Darrow, of Soldotna High fame, is a sophomore center fielder for Eastern Arizona College. He had 65 hits in 47 games and batted .519 in his team’s 16 wins. He also struck out only 14 times in 184 plate appearances.

He returned to competitive baseball in 2017 for the first time in three years after sitting out as a redshirt at another school and then taking part in a two-year religious mission.

Darrow’s past prepared him for success in the future.

“Being a part of the American Legion in Alaska and Post 20 program was some of the best years of my life and we always competed and played hard,” Darrow said. “Post 20 has had great coaches involved for years who have focused on playing the game the right way.”