Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog provides daily posts on Alaska athletes doing great things at the professional, international and collegiate level outside the state. The blog was created to fill a void of coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Since 2009 former Anchorage Daily News Sports Editor Van Williams has written more than 2,000 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

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

August 31, 2014

Kelly Cobb SoccerWith her team in need of a spark, Kelly Cobb of Chugiak did what star strikers do best.

She put the ball into the back of the net.

She scored in the seventh minute to kickstart a three-goal outburst that carried the Duke women’s soccer team to a 3-1 victory over the University of Alabama Birmingham in NCAA action in Durham, N.C.

It was Cobb’s first goal in four games this season.

She received a crossing pass from a teammate and roofed a rocket into the upper right corner from 12 yards out.

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, is among Duke’s greatest playmakers and ranks in the top 10 all-time with nearly a point per game average.

For her career, she has 21 goals and 12 assists for 54 points in 62 games.

Robert Walgren TrackBack in a Gonzaga jersey for the first time in a year, Robert Walgren of Anchorage looked great in his first race since his return.

The senior cross country runner was the top college runner and finished second out of 88 men at the Clash of the Inland Northwest in Spokane.

“He had a really good effort today,” Gonzaga coach Pat Tyson told the school’s website.

Walgren finished the 6K race in 18:14, outpacing a pack of a half dozen runners. Gonzaga teammate Willie Milan ran unattached and won in 18:08.

Walgren, of Service High fame, is no stranger to success for the NCAA D1 Bulldogs.

In 2012, he broke the school’s 3,000 meter record in track and field in consecutive meets. First he ran 8:31.78 at the University of Idaho and then three weeks later cut it down to 8:20.31 at the University of Washington.

August 30, 2014

Zach Lujan FootballHe started the game a backup.

He ended it a hero.

South Dakota State quarterback Zach Lujan of Anchorage replaced the starter early in the first half and played admirably for the underdogs in a 38-13 loss today at No. 24 Missouri.

This was the first game for the sophomore JC transfer and it came against a team from the mighty SEC, the premier conference in college football.

Lujan completed 21-of-28 passes for 239 yards. He threw for a two-point conversion and one interception. He orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the third quarter that got South Dakota State within 21-18.

“The more reps I got the more I felt like I belonged out there,” Lujan told reporters.

Credit the sophomore for being ready to go when his number was called after starter Austin Sumner got injured. He knew the team’s offensive game plan and executed it like he had been out there the whole time.

“I was a little too excited, so I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” he said. “In the second half I really calmed down and the game slowed down for me.”

Lujan, of South High fame, played last season at Chabot College where he was named 2013 Golden Gate Conference Offensive Player of the year and league MVP.

That was special. What he did today was historic.

You could argue that Lujan turned in the greatest offensive performance by a college football player from Alaska if you consider the opponent [Missouri], the setting [on the road], the situation [his first NCAA game] and the performance [he moved the ball against an SEC defense].

August 29, 2014

Caleb Holley FootballHe made the first cut with the Buffalo Bills, but now Caleb Holley of Anchorage will have the longest night of his life with all NFL teams cutting their rosters down to 53 players Saturday.

Holley is a rookie receiver out of East Central in Oklahoma, trying to make the team as an undrafted walk-on, which is virtually unheard of by today’s standards.

Yet don’t doubt him. The former NCAA D2 standout probably heard he wouldn’t make the first roster cut to 75, but he did.

He also played in three NFL preseason games with the Bills. He did not make a catch on three targets, but he did line up against the Giants, Steelers and Lions.

Holley, of East High fame, was a record-setting receiver in college. He set the East Central single-game record with 224 yards in one game and finished with 970 yards on 55 catches. He scored nine touchdowns.

His route-running and ball-catching skills reportedly made him the most consistent receiver at mini camp and the Bills signed him to their roster for training camp.

If he does make the team, Holley would be the first Alaskan to play wide receiver in the NFL. We’ve had a tight end [Rocky Klever], but never a receiver.

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerThe Alabama State women’s soccer team continues to live vicariously through Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage.

The super sophomore was the Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year last year and led the program to new heights.

She’s back to her old tricks this year, scoring game-winning goals in two of the first three games.

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, found the net tonight in the 13th minute to secure a 1-0 win over South Carolina Upstate.

It was her 20th career goal and sixth game-winner in just 23 games at Alabama State.

August 27, 2014

DesJarlais_cobb_basketball_actionWith nearly as many career goals as the rest of the Duke University women’s soccer team put together, Kelly Cobb of Chugiak is undoubtedly the offensive leader.

Yet it might be her veteran influence that has the biggest impact this year. Twenty of 29 Blue Devils are underclassmen, so they will lean on Cobb’s veteran leadership more than ever.

“We have to have a great year out of Kelly,” Duke coach Robbie Church told the Duke Chronicle. “She’s healthy and she’s having fun and she can run without pain. She’s playing at a very high level and we have to have her playing at a really high level.”

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, spent part of this summer training with the Under-20 national team and owns a gold medal from the 2012 U-20 World Cup.

She is healthy for the first time in three years, free from ankle and knee pain. The last time she felt this good was her freshman season when she led Duke to the 2011 NCAA title match.

Duke lost that match 1-0, a disappointment that still drives Cobb today. Her only goal is to end her senior season with a national championship.

“Anything else is less than satisfactory,” Cobb said. “I know that back when I was a freshman we went all the way to the national championship game, but I still think every year that we’ve had the talent to go all the way so I’m hoping senior year I’ll end it right.”

August 25, 2014

Womens RowingIt’s been 30 years, but Kris Thorsness of Anchorage still can’t believe she was the first Alaskan to win an Olympic gold medal.

She wasn’t supposed to become rowing royalty. She was labeled as too short, too thin, too small. She was from Alaska where rowing barely existed in 1984. Yet she proved everyone wrong.

“It may sound odd, but I sometimes have a hard time believing that all of that really happened to me,” she told me over the weekend. “I was so fortunate to be teamed with such an amazing group of athletes.”

Thorsness, now 54, reunited with her Olympic teammates earlier this month in Seattle, where the women rowed the same boat they used to win the gold at the Los Angeles Games 30 years ago.

“There’s a real magic getting into that boat with those women,” she said. “It’s like a time machine that transports me back through the years. As you can see from the pictures, some of the rowers are still very much in shape. We did some starts and 20 stroke power pieces, and it really moved out. People even started talking about finding someone to race!”

Thorsness also won silver medals at the World Championships in 1982, 1983 and 1987. Her success inspired the creation of the Anchorage Rowing Association.

She was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural Class of 2007.

Thorsness keeps her gold medal in her sock drawer, taking it out for only special occasions like when she speaks at schools and kids clubs. Or when someone asks to see it like some guys did the other day while installing a window at her house.

The medal doesn’t compare to the friendships she forced with those Olympic teammates.

“It was really wonderful to be together with my teammates and coach again. I see some of them from time to time, but because we’re spread across the country, these reunions are the only time we’re all in one place,” Thorsness said. “We are such diverse and assertive personalities, but once we sit in the boat we become a single organism – just like it was 30 years ago.”

August 23, 2014

Laurent Frost BaseballThey say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but the only jewelry Lauren Frost of Eagle River is interested is championship rings.

Frost is Alaska’s greatest women’s baseball player and among the best in the country.

The 17-year-old this week participated at the USA Baseball Women’s National Team Trials in Malibu, Calif., where she among the top 40 players to play in a three-game series that determined final roster spots.

Frost started Game 1 and pitched well, but unfortunately she didn’t make the final cut. That shouldn’t take the shine away from her accomplishment of being invited to the national team trials for the second straight year, though.

She is our Mo’ne Davis.

Frost, of Eagle River High fame, is an all-star infielder and No. 2 hitter who was voted to the all-state team during the American Legion season and was selected to the USA Today’s All-Alaska baseball team for the high school season.

The 5-foot-8 right-hander has a pony tail and can play both middle infield positions. She can bunt and is as fundamentally sound as most Alaska boys baseball players.

Frost has already committed to play NCAA D1 softball at powerhouse Stanford University in 2015. But until then, her focus is baseball.

At the National Team Trials, she played for the Blue team and started Game 1. She didn’t allow a run until the fourth inning and then wiggled out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Her team eventually won 2-1, but she earned a no decision.

Frost is entering her senior season of high school.

August 21, 2014

Damen Bell Holter BasketballHydaburg’s Damen Bell-Holter is leaving the NBA D-League for a more lucrative contract in Europe.

The 6-foot-9 forward has signed with BC Kormend of Hungary. The team is in Eurochallenge, considered the third professional tier in European basketball.

“I’ll be playing against good teams around Europe and I’m making a really good amount of money,” he told me.

Bell-Holter, of Ketchikan High fame, played last season in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws and averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 48 games.

The 24-year-old spent time with the Boston Celtics last year for training camp and played in two preseason games. Then he played in the 2014 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with a D-League team.

But now he’s headed to Hungary.

“My agent said taking this offer was a no-brainer because it’s gonna set my career up,” Bell-Holter said.

With BC Kormend, he will be coached by American Aaron Mitchell.

“I’m gonna develop under him,” Bell-Holter said.

Bell-Holter is hoping a big year in Hungary will open doors in the NBA and with European teams up the food chain.

“I’m on route to get there if I have a good year,” he said.

August 20, 2014

Kelly Cobb SoccerIt’s always a big deal when two top 20 NCAA women’s soccer teams meet on the field, even when it’s an exhibition, but the Duke-South Carolina matchup had special meaning for Alaska.

That’s because the game featured two Alaskans in Duke’s Kelly Cobb of Chugiak and South Carolina’s Katelyn Houston of Anchorage.

Both players saw extended playing time as No. 18 Duke beat No. 14 South Carolina 2-0 in Durham, N.C. The teams played three 30-minute periods.

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, is a starting forward and one of the greatest goal scorers in Alaska history with 20 goals in 60 career games.

The senior spent part of her summer training with the U.S. women’s national soccer team in Seattle. It was her first action with the national team since 2012 when she helped the Americans win the gold medal at the U-20 World Cup in Japan.

Katelyn Houston SoccerIn 2011, she led Duke to the NCAA championship game.

Houston, of Grace Christian fame, is a freshman goalkeeper who sat out last season as a redshirt.

She made one save against Duke, her first taste of college competition.

August 19, 2014

Lance Wright FootballWithin seconds and without warning, dark clouds moved in and a huge thunderstorm hammered Houston with a sudden downpour Lance Wright of North Pole had never seen. It doesn’t rain in Alaska like it does in Texas.

“The weather is weird here,” he told me. “It’ll be 100 degrees and super humid, and five minutes later a huge thunderstorm is on top of you. Ten minutes after that it’s back to sunny and hot again. It’s so different.”

The football is different as well.

The former Alaska high school all-state receiver is getting a front-row view of just how different football is in Texas as a freshman scholarship player at Rice University. The Owls are defending champions of Conference USA and boast a roster full of players from the football-rich state of Texas.

Wright was Rice’s only signee in his class outside of Texas and is the school’s first football recruit from Alaska.

At North Pole, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder caught 29 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. For his career he hauled in 90-1,873-26 totals.

“You can see my highlight tape. I can pretty much do whatever I want out there,” Wright said.

Now he’s one of the few Alaskans playing NCAA football at a Division I college.

The jump from North Pole to Texas has been surreal.

“They’ve got guys 300 pounds running a 4.7,” he said. “That’s something I didn’t even think was possible.”

Wright used to be on the field with kids that watched Monday Night Football. Now he is surrounded by guys trying to play on Monday Night Football.

“It’s very serious,” Wright said. “I’m up at 5 a.m., in bed at 10 p.m. I think this is our eighth day, I don’t even know, the days are running together. We’ve gone over so many plays and formations, routes adjusted for coverages that change during the play. All day meetings, working out, eating … it’s a lot different, but I’m glad I’m here.”

At his first team meeting, the coaches gave him a copy of the team’s playbook.

“It’s bigger than my textbooks,” Wright said. “It’s way more complex than high school, and I was fortunate to play in a spread offense in high school, but it was nothing like this. That first meeting we were going over this stuff I was like, how I’m I going to remember all of this? Now I’ve a better handle on it. It’s going to take time and once I get healthy and take some reps, the reps will help a lot.”

Wright, 18, is nursing a hamstring injury that has kept him off the field and on the sidelines, a point of frustration for any competitor. You know it’s killing the Alaskan to be on the field with the big boys. He has a lot to prove.

In reality, he’s already accomplished so much by earning a football scholarship from Rice.

“Growing up in Alaska, it’s like anywhere else, but North Pole is rough. It’s not like a ghetto or a hood, but it’s still a rough place. You don’t have the same opportunities as other places,” Wright said. “It made me feel good how proud my family was, even my extended family, when I committed to Rice.

“I want to be that story of that kid out of North Pole that made his dreams come true. So far I’ve done that, although when I got here it was like, alright time to set some new goals.”

Wright had lots of help to be able to play college football at the highest level.

“If I had gone to any other high school in Alaska I doubt I would have ended up here. My coaches they helped since I was a little kid, they knew my goals and what I wanted to accomplish and they did everything they could to make that happen,” he said. “My parents, they are amazing. They knew I wanted to get a scholarship, so they always sent me to camps and I could never repay them for what they did, but I know they are proud of me and that’s good enough for now.”

August 18, 2014

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerAlabama State forward Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage has been given the ultimate compliment by the coaches in her league.

She was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

It was an easy choice considering Lewis won the same award in 2013 after leading the Southwestern Athletic Conference in goals [16], shots [61] and points [38].

“I’m energized for the season this just makes me even more eager,” she told me. “But with that title I know mentally and physically I must work even harder to earn such an honor.”

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, has been the player of the year for three straight seasons, dating back to her days in Alaska.

No matter how many individual awards she wins, Lewis has her eyes set on getting Alabama State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

“I expect a good season out of my team this year,” she said. “We are all preparing and working. I just hope I do my part and deal with whatever these defenses throw my way.

“It’s a new season and new team and given the ending to our story last year we are all pretty amped to turn on the heat coming into this season. My goal is always to better myself and my game, but it’s going to be a little more challenging this year.”

August 17, 2014

kelsey_griffin_basketball_action4Alaska’s greatest women’s basketball player cleared another hurdle in her remarkable career as Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River surpassed the 800-point plateau in the WNBA.

The 6-foot-2 forward is in her fifth season with the Connecticut Sun. She has now pumped in 801 points in 164 career games. That’s an average of 4.9 per game.

Griffin is averaging 4.4 points and a career-best 5.1 rebounds in 31 games this year.

She is also the state’s all-time leader in points among Alaskans at the NCAA D1 level, netting 2,033 during an All-American career at the University of Nebraska.

Griffin can do more than score – her pro team in Australia has won back-to-back league championships. She’s headed back there after the WNBA season ends shortly.

August 16, 2014

Lauren Murphy Mixed Martial ArtsFaced with the greatest challenge of her fighting life, Lauren Murphy of Eagle River performed valiantly in her UFC debut but lost a split decision in Maine.

Her opponent, former Olympic silver medal winning wrestler Sara McMann, relied on her grappling background to control the action on the ground and win on points. Two of three judges had McMann winning the bantamweight fight as part of UFC Fight Night 47.

Some people would say McMann won the wrestling, but Murphy won the fight.

The 30-year-old former Invicta champion from Alaska landed three times more strikes [203 to 72], many of which were thrown from her back. But McMann held advantages in significant strikes landed [58 to 25] and takedowns [5 to 0].

It was the first pro loss for Murphy [8-1], who got her start in the Alaska Fighting Championship.

Murphy signed a four-fight deal with UFC, although she told me few fighters stick around after starting 0-2. She is a driven, professional fighter who will be better next time she climbs into the cage.

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1Juneau right-hander Dylan Baker has moved into elite company among Alaska’s best professional pitchers by picking his 10th career win.

It may not seem a lot but only eight Alaskans have reached double figures in minor league baseball. We’ve never had anybody win a game in the major leagues among the three pitchers that made it.

Baker improved to 3-2 on the season after the Carolina Mudcats beat Myrtle Beach 6-5 in Class A Advanced action. He didn’t have his best stuff but still got the win, scattering five hits and three walks across 5.1 innings.

Baker is now 10-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 42 career starts in the minors.

All-time wins by Alaska pitchers in minor pro leagues:

62 – Marshall Boze, Soldonta
30 – Chris Mabeus, Soldotna
30 – Matt Way, Sitka
27 – Ryan Shaver, Fairbanks
24 – Joey Newby, Soldotna
19 – Corey Madden, Anchorage
11 – Chad Bentz, Juneau
10 – Dylan Baker, Juneau

August 14, 2014

Lauren Murphy Mixed Martial ArtsShe’s on the eve of the biggest fight of her life and Lauren Murphy of Eagle River is bullet proof.

Nothing can rattle her, not even a delayed flight.

Despite a snafu with her airline that pushed back her arrival to Maine from Tuesday to Wednesday, Murphy rolled with it like she was on vacation.

But Saturday will be no day at the beach.

Murphy will make her debut in the mighty UFC, the world’s biggest and baddest mixed martial arts league in the world, when she takes on former Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann in a bantamweight bout on the UFC Fight Night 47 card.

The 30-year-old Alaskan arrived in Maine with a smile on her face, despite being a day late.

“At this point I think most fighters kind of accept that nothing is really normal. No stress is good, but if it does come up it has never affected me in a fight,” Murphy told me. “It’s something you take one second at a time. The thing I think people worry about is the actual fight night under the big, bright lights and there are cameras in your face, and I think that can be a little overwhelming, but it’s something that’s never bothered me up to this point.”

Murphy has an 8-0 record as a professional MMA fighter, and she has made five women retire, meaning she beat them so bad they walked away from the sport.

Now she’s in the major leagues of mixed martial arts.

“I wonder a lot how I got here,” she said. “When I think of it like that, it’s like, you’ve come a long way baby.”

Murphy will take on a veteran fighter in McMann, who has a 7-1 record, 1-1 in the UFC. McMann’s last fight came in a loss to UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey.

A UFC win would do wonders for Murphy’s budding career, but she won’t enter the cage hating McMann. Red rage isn’t part of her strategy.

“People think irrationally when you’re in that state of mind. There is no way to stay calm. You have to think about what you’re doing,” Murphy said. “There are certain escapes you’re going to use for certain moves and different finishes and punching combinations and you have to be using your brain to set those up. It depends on what your opponent is doing and then how best to exploit their weaknesses. You have to be able to do that in the heat of the moment, so the best way to do that is to stay calm, control your breathing and remember what you’re fighting for.”

She’s fighting for herself, for her family and for Alaska.

“I want everybody in Alaska to know that I really just want to make them proud and I’m going to fight my hardest on Saturday and leave it all in the cage,” Murphy said. “I hope I’ve done right by my home state.”

August 13, 2014

Bryan Maley FootballA super sub last year, Bryan Maley of Eagle River is looking for more permanent work with the Wagner College football team this fall.

The senior placekicker has the inside track to be the starter after he proved in 2013 that he could handle the job filling in for injured all-conference kicker David Lopez, who is gone now.

Maley, of Chugiak High fame, made 3-of-4 field goals and all seven PATs.

He also provided his signature moment at Wagner, booting a game-winning 45-yard field goal with four seconds left to beat Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart.

That kick earned Maley NEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Used primarily as a kickoff specialist, Maley had five touchbacks on 17 kickoffs last year. In 2011, as a freshman, he finished with 25 kickoffs for a 59-yard average.

August 11, 2014

Ariela Lewis SoccerThere’s a culture change going on with the Alabama State women’s soccer program, and Ariela and Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage are leading the revolution.

In just their sixth season, the Hornets had never won more than seven games in a season before piling up 14 victories last year.

The freshman are the No. 1 scoring sister act in NCAA D1 women’s soccer and led Alabama State to the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship game for the first time.

The twins have bigger plans this year. They want to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

“It is my dream to help get my team to the NCAAs and hopefully in a few there,” Ariela told me. “But it is a huge accomplishment.”

She isn’t the only one to have faith in the Hornets.

SWAC coaches voted Alabama State as the preseason No. 1 team.

“I think it’s a huge honor that people are saying we are No. 1 in the SWAC and predicting us to win the league,” said Ariela, last year’s SWAC Freshman of the Year. “It’s a great feeling but also puts the pressure on us to live up to the expectations. I think it’s an amazing feeling to see the previous years and then reflect on last year and just see the growth this team has had and the potential it can have in coming years.”

Last year, the Lewis sisters combined for 33 goals and 16 assists for 82 points in 22 games. Almost every Lewis goal came off a Lewis assist.

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerAaliyah was named SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 18 goals and 43 points. At Dimond High, she was a two-time Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year.

Together, they have brought a winning edge from Alaska to Alabama State.

“Honestly, I think one of the biggest components that helped us turn things around would be more competition and the team’s determination and the pushing each other to be better and do better,” Ariela said. “We all have one goal and that’s to win the ring and make NCAA Tournament, so we have to make sure everyone gives their maximum effort.

“I’ve been working hard, training hard, waiting for this upcoming season and I am definitely ready to give my opponents a tough game.”

August 10, 2014

Kelsey Griffin BasketballIt’s been a tough season for the Connecticut Sun, failing to make the WNBA playoffs for the second straight season.

But Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River plays hard no matter the situation.

The fifth-year forward came up big today, sinking big buckets on the final play of regulation and then again late in the second overtime to fuel an 89-81 win over Washington and her former coach.

“Kelsey Griffin, MVP of the game if you ask me,” Connecticut coach Anne Donovan told reports. “Just in terms of her defensive energy, deflections, picking up the charge, the last steal she had, knocking down the three; they were huge.”

Griffin’s putback at the buzzer tied the game at 70-70 and forced overtime. Later she drained an open 3-pointer to provide a 79-75 lead with 2:18 left.

It was just the eighth 3-pointer the Alaskan had made in 29 games this year.

“I’m not someone who takes a lot of shots and produces a lot of points,” Griffin told reporters. “I work very hard on that [3-point] shot. They were daring us to shoot from the outside.

“I said, ‘Why not take the shot?’ I made it all the time in practice, why not now?”

She played 27 minutes and finished with eight points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one blocked shot and a +13 plus/minus rating.

August 9, 2014

20090806Boozer_Camp0213It seems like every little boy wants to grow up and be an athlete or entertainer. Some do both.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Carlos Boozer of Juneau got a taste of the entertainment industry recently when he was part of a hoops-themed rap album that will benefit the ‘nPlay Foundation’s fight against childhood obesity.

Boozer is featured along with Twista and Willie Taylor on the ‘Winning Streak’ track.

“I used to be another little fellow with some hoop dreams. Now I got the game laced up – shoe strings,” Boozer raps in the song.

Boozer is considered Alaska’s greatest basketball player with a fabulous career spanning Duke University, where he was an All-American and won a NCAA title, and the NBA, where he has racked up 13,140 career points with Cleveland, Utah and Chicago. He landed in L.A. this year.

He has done it all on the basketball court, yet when he went to the recording studio he was like a little kid.

“A 6-10 kid coming into a toy store,” is how music producer Slam Ridley told the Chicago Tribune. “He had never been in the studio before. Here I am 5-9 on my best day [but] he made me feel like the giant.”

Here’s another line from Boozer’s part in the song.

“Might go baseline, one time and abuse ya. Run back down the court like you know it was Booz-za.”

August 8, 2014

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1A forgettable start turned into a memorable finish for Carolina Mudcats pitcher Dylan Baker of Juneau in his latest start in Class A Advanced pro ball.

The right-hander pitched six innings in a 6-4 win over the Frederick Keys in Maryland, picking up his first win since coming back last month from a fractured fibula.

Baker opened the game by giving up three consecutive hits and trailed 2-0 after four batters. It looked bleak.

But the Alaskan made it beautiful in the end, retiring 16 of the next 20 batters to turn his frown upside down.

In all, Baker gave up five hits, walked two, struck out three and benefited from a pair of double plays.

He is now 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five starts with the Mudcats of the Carolina League.

Conor Spink BaseballConor Spink of Eagle River made quick work of the Sioux Falls batters he faced tonight, striking out all three in the eighth inning in a 4-0 win for the Lincoln Salt Dogs in independent pro ball action.

The left-handed reliever now has 34 strikeouts this season, the most in his three-year career in the American Association.

Spink, of Chugiak High fame, lowered his ERA to 2.45 in 40.1 innings. He has a 34-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

For his career, he is 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 108.2 innings.

August 6, 2014

Zac Naylor SoccerThe Concordia University men’s soccer team lost a ton of offense with the departure of several key players from last year’s team, including the school’s all-time goal scorer.

They need somebody to step into those cleats and put the ball into the back of the net.

That person could be Zac Naylor of Anchorage.

The junior transfer is a promising forward with a knack for scoring goals after tallying 18 in two seasons at Edmonds Community College of the Northwest Athletic Conference.

Naylor, of South High fame, is one of four Alaskans on the roster for Concordia, which was picked to finish second in the Cascade Collegiate Conference this year.

Another is Nick Herzberg, a senior defender out of Fairbanks. He logged a total of 619 minutes last season, playing all 90 three times, and assisting on one goal.

Herzberg, of West Valley fame, started eight of 14 games.

The other two Alaskans are sophomore Ronald Perry of Anchorage and Brady Sanders of Chugiak.

August 3, 2014

Zack Bowman FootballAfter a terrific training camp, Zack Bowman of Anchorage may have cemented his place on the New York Giants with a strong preseason performance in the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game.

The seventh-year cornerback has always had a nose for the ball, so it was no surprise to see the 6-foot-1 Alaskan intercept a pass in the second quarter of a 17-13 victory over Buffalo.

Bowman, of Bartlett High fame, also had a tackle and a pass deflection in limited action.

In six NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears prior to signing with the Giants, he intercepted 10 passes, recovered six fumbles and scored three touchdowns.

August 2, 2014

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1He didn’t have his A-plus stuff, but it was good enough for Carolina Mudcats starter Dylan Baker of Juneau to win the Class A Advanced game.

Unfortunately, the baseball gods had different plans.

The Potomac Nationals beat Baker and the Mudcats 4-2 in a rainy, sloppy minor league game that featured six errors and several bad bounces.

Baker suffered the loss, although it was hardly his fault. He threw 3.2 innings, allowing five hits and two walks. But only one run of the three he allowed was earned.

His only bad inning was in the third when Potomac scored three runs, two on a double just passed a diving infielder’s glove. The second runner was a dead duck at home but the throw to the plate sailed over the catcher’s head.

Baker [1-2] has a 4.57 ERA in seven games this year.

This was only his third start since coming back from a broken ankle that sidelined him for three months. His comeback is slowed by pitch counts, but he is showing the promise that made him a fifth round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2012.

The hard-throwing righty has 26 strikeouts in 21.2 innings in 2014 and has 173 Ks in 189 innings for his pro career.