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 2,300 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

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

April 25, 2015

Taylor Bakker softball

Taylor Bakker

Taylor Bakker of Chugiak finished the JC softball season hitting .333 for the Hutchinson Blue Dragons in Kansas.

The sophomore outfielder collected 14 multi-hit games and scored 29 runs in 43 games.

Bakker, of Chugiak High fame, transformed her game at Hutchinson, where she learned to hit left handed to better utilize her blazing speed.

She led her team with 13 stolen bases.

Alysa Horn BasketballOsnabruck stayed alive in the semifinal league series with 52-51 win over Veilchen in Game 2 of the German women’s second division playoff series.

Starting forward Alysa Horn of Kodiak scored 10 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in 23 minutes.

The 6-footer made 5-of-12 shots from the floor and missed her only 3-point attempt.

The series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Saturday.

Horn, of Kodiak High fame, is averaging 13.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 26 games.

April 24, 2015

Max Karnos Baseball

Photo by Shannon Litz, Nevada Appeal

Western Nevada College again turned to Max Karnos of Anchorage out of the bullpen and again he delivered shutout relief.

The sophomore right-handed tossed four goose eggs and earned the winning decision as WNC beat College of Eastern Utah 3-0 in Nevada.

Karnos has been straight money this year.

The 6-foot-4 Alaskan improved to 5-4 and lowered his ERA to 1.81 in 74.1 innings.

Karnos, of South High fame, allowed just two hits and one walk while pitching to contact and trusting his defense to make the plays behind him. He struck out just one batter.

Whatever he’s doing it is working.

Karnos hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 12.1 innings over three appearances.

April 23, 2015

Ramon Harris BasketballAnchorage’s Ramon Harris put on a shooting clinic in Game 1 of the NBA D-League Finals.

The 6-foot-7 starting forward sank 8-of-13 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 30 points for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in a 119-115 loss to the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Harris, of West High fame, was feeling it from start to finish as his teammates looked for him to keep shooting.

He finished 11-of-16 from the floor to go with 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

It’s been a breakout season for Harris this year with the 26-year-old averaging a career-best 9 points during the regular season and earning a regular starting assignment.

The 30 points is the most scored in a NBA D-League game by a player from Alaska, surpassing the 24 points Hydaburg’s Damen Bell-Holter had with Maine last season.

April 22, 2015

Haleigh Van Allen soccer

Haleigh Van Allen

She has carved her own footprint on the soccer field, but Haleigh Van Allen of Anchorage will follow in the footsteps of other Alaskans at Northern Arizona University.

The two-time finalist for Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year has signed with the NCAA D1 Lumberjacks to continue a trend of Alaska women playing college soccer in Flagstaff.

“Every four years a new girl from Alaska has been a part of the Northern Arizona program,” Van Allen told me. “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Carolyn Savage of Anchorage played there from 2007 to 2011 and Sarah Tarver of Juneau was there from 2011 to 2014. Both players helped NAU reach the NCAA College Cup.

Savage is currently an assistant coach at NAU and played a hand in getting Van Allen to seal the deal. The Service High star striker liked the campus, the coaches and the climate.

“It’s a lot like here and that’s what I like about it,” Van Allen said of Flagstaff. “It’s like a home away from home almost. My cousin went to school there.”

Van Allen is Alaska’s most prolific scorer with 75 goals in 49 career games. Throw in 33 assists and she has surpassed the century mark in points.

“She’s definitely a player that you have to take notice,” Service coach Mark Cascolan told me, “and if you don’t know who she is at the end of the match you’ll know. You’re going to be asking who that girl is. But when you talk about youth soccer in Alaska, everybody knows who Haleigh is.”

Cascolan, a longtime high school and club coach in Alaska, said Van Allen is just one of many top-notch players in a long list of female soccer players to come out of the state.

“There are so many girls going out and playing at a really, really high level. We are a bit of a gold mine here,” he said. “It’s an unknown gold mine. We have a bunch of diamonds in the ruff. But a lot of colleges are looking to create a pipeline into Alaska to get to this untapped resource.”

April 21, 2015

Tyler Swinton golf

Tyler Swinton

Tyler Swinton of Haines fired an eagle on the second-to-last hole en route to carding a 1-over 72 on the final day of the Cascade Conference Championships in Oregon.

The Oregon Institute of Technology junior golfer finished fourth out of 27 men with a 54-hole total of 221 [+8] at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course.

His team finished tied for third with Warner Pacific, one shot behind Corban. Concordia won the team title.

Swinton, the only current Alaska college golfer, shot 73 and 76 in back-to-back rounds Monday. Then he flirted with par during today’s final round, shooting 72.

The highlight was when he eagled No. 17 after holing out his wedge shot from 100 yards out.

“It landed three to four feet in front of the pin, bounced behind it and spun back in,” Swinton told me. “It was pretty cool.”

His mom, dad, sister and youngest brother walked the course with him and saw him hit arguably the best shot of the tournament. Having them there made it even better.

“It was a little more exciting,” he said.

April 20, 2015

Anna Dalton2Alaskans excelled Monday at the 119th Boston Marathon as Anchorage’s Jeff Young won his age group and training partner Anna Dalton placed among the top 50 women.

Young, 56, convincingly claimed the men’s 55-59 age group and placed 598th overall in 2 hours, 46 minutes and 23 seconds. More than 1,700 runners were entered in his age-group.

In breezy conditions, the 25-year-old Dalton ran a five-minute personal-best of 2:51:27 to place 46th among women.

“Pretty miserable conditions here even for us Alaskans,” she shared in a text from the finish.

“Really really tough conditions,” echoed Jeff Young.

Meanwhile, Anchorage’s Ryan Beckett was the fastest Alaskan with a 2:43:43 [428th overall] followed by Sitka’s Aaron Routon in 2:45:46.

Fifty-three Alaskans were signed up for America’s oldest footrace. Other Alaskans who broke three hours included Jim McDonough [2:51:10], John Naylor [2:53:25], Daniel Myers [2:56:45], Dugan Greenwell [2:57:01] and James Miller [2:59:48].

Jerry Ross, who helps coach Young and Dalton, just missed the threshold in 3:01:58.

A total of 30,251 runners were registered for the granddaddy of all marathons.

Ramon Harris Basketball

Photo credit by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette

He doesn’t get the attention like other professional athletes from Alaska, but Ramon Harris of Anchorage is the on verge of accomplishing something special.

The 6-foot-7 starting forward is shooting for back-to-back NBA D-League titles with the defending champion Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Fort Wayne punched its ticket with a 103-85 win over Canton in Game 2 to sweep the best-of-3 Eastern Conference playoff series.

“Everything is good here in Fort Wayne,” Harris told me. “It feels great to be in the position that we are in right now. Obviously it won’t get any easier now, but it is definitely a good position to be in.”

Harris, of West High fame, pumped in a playoff career-high 13 points to go with 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. He made 5-of-9 shots and both free throws.

Fort Wayne has won five consecutive playoff series dating back to last year.

“I think that we keep winning because we have a great coaching staff that keeps us prepared to win each and every game,” Harris said. “I also believe that our chemistry off the court is helping us on the court. As a team, we go out; we get food together after practice. We do a lot of stuff as a team.”

The 26-year-old has had a storied hoops career – first winning four state titles in high school, then going to the NCAA Tournament with the University of Kentucky and finally becoming the first Alaskan to win a D-League championship.

“At this point I’m really comfortable in my game and when I’m out there on the court is when I’m at peace having fun and competing with my teammates,” Harris said. “I feel real comfortable at this point of my career because I feel that I have improved from last year and I feel that it is showing on the court.”

Harris improved his scoring average from 6.2 to 9.1 this season. In the playoffs, he has scored 36 points as his team has gone 4-0 to reach the finals.

“The playoffs are definitely a whole level higher than the regular season,” he said. “In the playoffs each possession matters, each lose ball matters and every defensive stop matters. I love it. I love to compete.”

April 19, 2015

Alysa Horn BasketballStarting forward Alysa Horn of Kodiak played 30 minutes for Osnabruck in a 69-65 home loss to Veilchen in Game 1 of the German playoffs.

The former UAA star collected 10 points and 7 rebounds in second division Bundesliga action.

Osnabruck fell behind 25-9 after the first quarter and fought back in the second half to make it a close game.

Game 2 is Saturday.

Max Karnos BaseballA new wrinkle got Western Nevada College pitcher Max Karnos of Anchorage back in the win column.

Used as a reliever for the first time this season, the right-hander pitched five scoreless innings to earn his first winning decision in almost a month as the Wildcats beat Colorado Northwestern 6-1.

“Max did a nice job and was designated to come in in the third inning,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore told the school’s website. “I was going to let him finish a game and not overuse him. He had his sinker going today and threw some groundballs.”

Karnos improved to 4-4 and lowered his ERA to 1.91 in 12 games. He had pitched well enough to win over the last four weeks but fell victim of poor run support.

Not today, though. He entered a 1-1 game and almost immediately his team responded with a crooked number, scoring four runs in the fourth to take control.

Karnos, of South High fame, has been lights out all year.

He has allowed only 15 earned runs and 51 hits in 70.2 innings while sporting a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

April 18, 2015

Janay DeLoach Soukup2Janay DeLoach-Soukup of Fairbanks skipped most major long jump events last year because of an injury to her left ankle, and when she did compete she had to abandon her traditional takeoff by jumping with her right foot.

She’s back jumping off her left foot and the results are getting her back on the right track.

The 29-year-old took a big step in winning the bronze medal at the 57th annual Mt. SAC Relays in California with a mark of 21 feet, 2.5 inches.

It’s nowhere near the level where she wants to be, but this result was a positive sign in her comeback to the world stage.

In 2013 and 2012 she recorded 21 top-3 finishes, including an Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and a US Outdoor National Championship in 2013.

DeLoach-Soukup, of Eielson High fame, is also a world-class sprint hurdler and aims to one day switch her focus from long jump to the heptathlon.

Tyler Thompson baseball

Tyler Thompson

Anchorage’s Tyler Thompson of Pacific Lutheran University had the game of his life in what has been the best season of his college baseball career.

The junior third baseman went 5-for-6 with 5 RBIs and 3 runs scores during a 22-2 victory over Lewis & Clark in the second game of today’s NCAA D3 doubleheader in Washington.

Thompson finished 6-for-11 with 6 runs on the day.

He bumped his batting average to .339 and now has 31 RBIs in 31 games.

April 17, 2015

Keiahnna Engel BasketballIt’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole coming home, feel-good story for Anchorage’s Keiahnna Engel, who told me today she will transfer from Boise State University and play her final season next year for the UAA women’s basketball team.

But she’s not interested in fairy tales. She’s coming here to win games, to bolster the backcourt and push the Seawolves deeper into the NCAA D2 National Tournament.

The 5-foot-7 guard is quick, strong and versatile, and should thrive in UAA’s up-tempo, full-court style of play under head coach Ryan McCarthy.

Last year the Seawolves soared to a No. 1 national ranking as well as captured a GNAC championship and earned a berth to the NCAAs.

“They were really successful last season and play the style I want to play,” Engel said. “I’ve known Ryan since high school. I know some of the girls.”

Engel was a two-time Alaska player of the year at Dimond High, which is where current UAA players Sierra Afoa and Tara Thompson played. Engel and Afoa were teammates at Dimond. Engel also knows Wasilla’s Alyssa Hutchins from high school.

“So I will know a couple people when I do come,” she said.

Engel started 39 of 87 career games at NCAA D1 Boise State, where she recorded 538 points, 284 rebounds, 161 assists and 115 steals.

She returned to Anchorage in November with Boise State for the Shootout and had a great time. It was the first time she had played here since high school and it reminded her of just home sick she was to be with family and friends.

“I did miss home when I was there and I did love the feeling of playing at home,” Engel said. “Playing in the Shootout was a great experience and one I’ll always remember.”

She’ll play in the Shootout again this fall.

This time, though, she’ll wear green and gold.

“I just want to be the best player I can be and be able to bring something to the team to reach the goal of winning the championship,” she said. “And I know Ryan and his staff can help me reach that goal. I truly want to enjoy my senior year, the process of getting better and achieve my goals.”

Isaac Updike Track and FieldThe Eastern Oregon University track team is competing at the 57th annual Mt. SAC Relays in California this weekend for the first time.

Two brothers from Alaska helped EOU make quite the impression.

Isaac Updike and Lucas Updike of Ketchikan went 1-2 in the opening heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase to help both hit their NAIA A standard and one a school record.

Isaac broke his own school record with a time of 8:54.74 – the second-fastest 3,000 steeplechase time in all of NAIA this year.

The senior took control after three laps and ran solo the rest of the way.

Lucas Updike RunningLucas finished second in 9:00.25 after breaking free from the pack after the fourth lap and maintaining his position. He improved his PR by six seconds and is now No. 2 on the school’s all-time list.

“Despite the wind and a somewhat disappointing heat from a competition standpoint, both Isaac and Lucas performed well,” EOU coach Ben Welch of Wasilla told me. “This is our first time here, so to have the Updike brothers finish 1-2 in the first race of this year’s meet was quite fun.”

April 16, 2015

Whitney Williams TennisAbilene Christian University tennis player Whitney Williams of Anchorage has been victorious 21 times this season as a freshman at the NCAA D1 level.

It has been one of the best college seasons by a player from Alaska, but she isn’t finished.

Williams, of South High fame, will conclude the Southland Conference season this weekend before Abilene Christian concludes the season at the iconic Ojai Tournament.

She is 12-7 in doubles, including 7-1 in league play with fellow freshman Erin Walker. The duo won 8-3 last night against Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the No. 2 slot.

Williams is 9-6 in singles after falling in three sets to AMCC in a tough match at No. 4.

Abilene Christian is 11-6 in dual meets this season, including 6-4 in the Southland Conference.

April 15, 2015

Tyler Swinton golf

Tyler Swinton

He wasn’t thrilled with how he played, but Tyler Swinton of Haines can take comfort in helping the Oregon Institute of Technology golf team make school history.

Oregon Tech claimed its first regular-season tournament title after winning the Northwest Christian University Invitational in Oregon, beating Concordia by just one stroke.

Swinton finished 11th in the men’s field with 77-73-75—225 totals over 54 holes.

“We ended up winning as a team, the first team win for Oregon Tech golf, but I wasn’t pleased with the way I played,” he told me. “Overall I hit the ball well, but couldn’t get off the tee for most part. Putting was poor all weekend and having eight penalty strokes for the weekend when I finished 9-over was kind of depressing.”

Swinton is the only Alaskan currently playing college golf.

The 21-year-old had it going early. He was shooting 2-over heading into 18 but sprayed his drive out of bounds left. He ended the hole with a triple bogey.

He birdied three of the first five holes to start his second round en route to carding a tournament-best 73 on the par-72 course.

His third round was filled with missed putts and unlucky breaks, he said.

“Overall I’m happy with our teams performance and I feel like I know what I need to focus on going into conference next weekend,” Swinton said.

April 14, 2015

Zoe Hickel hockey

Zoe Hickel

Zoe Hickel of Anchorage was all smiles after helping Team USA win the women’s world championship in Sweden.

In doing so she became just the second Alaska woman since Palmer’s Kerry Weiland to claim gold at worlds.

Hickel, of South High fame, assisted on a goal in a 3-1 win over Russia in the semifinals. She played in the final as Team USA beat Canada 7-5.

This year was her senior season at Minnesota Duluth, where she led her team in scoring with 19-13—32 totals and was named to the all-league and all-academic teams.

She was also a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

April 13, 2015

Aaron Miller BaseballAfter a slow start, Aaron Miller of Anchorage has heated up for Mayville State in North Dakota.

The junior outfielder has a 13-game hitting streak going while bumping his batting average to .339 in 36 games for the NAIA school.

He’s hitting .515 [17-for-33] in April.

Miller, of Service High fame, hit his first home run Friday during the spring season and his second since Sept. 28.

The next game he went 4-for-6 and drove in two runs.

He has 13 RBIs in his last 10 games.

Miller is a.351 career hitter at Mayville State in 105 games.

Jessica Todd track and field

Jessica Todd

Anchorage’s Jessica Todd had a pretty memorable weekend at the Colorado Invitational college meet.

The senior sprinter helped set a pair of relay school records for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

She was the common link between the team teams.

Todd, of Dimond High fame, ran the second leg of the 400-meter relay and helped her team clock an altitude-adjusted time of 48.74 seconds.

She led off the 1,600-meter relay and helped the team post an adjusted time of 3:56.44.

April 12, 2015

Tyler Thompson baseball

Tyler Thompson

The renaissance continues for Pacific Lutheran University baseball player Tyler Thompson of Anchorage.

The junior third baseman pushed his batting average to .319 after 29 games, a big improvement on the .211 he hit in 38 games last season.

That makes him a strong candidate to win comeback player of the year in the Northwest Conference. His turnaround has been staggering and impressive.

“I learned to relax, I guess,” he told me. “This year I kind of just let myself go. I just go up there and hit. I’m not thinking too much. I’m not putting pressure on myself. I’m just playing my game.”

Thompson, of Dimond High fame, went 2-for-3 with his fourth home run of the season in today’s 9-2 win over Puget Sound in NCAA D3 action in Washington.

He went 5-for-15 with 5 RBIs in the four-game series.

Thompson leads PLU in doubles [10], homers [4] and RBIS [26].

April 11, 2015

Beau Kittredge ultimate disc frisbee

Beau Kittredge

Alaska is known for hockey, dog mushing and skiing.

Ultimate disc, though? Not so much.

Beau Kittredge of Fairbanks is changing that perception as the best player of the American Ultimate Disc League.

The rookie won MVP honors last season with the San Jose Spiders and is credited with the ‘Best Sky Catch in Ultimate Frisbee.’

The 2015 season starts today.

Last year, Kittredge was the only player in the AUDL to collect more than 30 assists, goals and blocks. That proves how versatile and valuable he is on the 100-yard field.

Kittredge, of Lathrop High fame, won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 World Games.

Alaska actually produces quite a few high-level ultimate players, including Chris Kosednar of Anchorage and Jodan Jeffrey of Barrow.

Kosednar played in 2014 with the AUDL’s San Francisco Revolver and enjoyed a standout season as the primary wheel in their offense. The team won titles at the US Open, the Southwest Regional and the World Club Championships.

Kosednar, of East High fame, has never forgotten his roots. He still comes back to his hometown in the summer to participate in local pickup games and play in tournaments.

April 10, 2015

Dylan Baker baseball

Dylan Baker

Juneau flamethrower Dylan Baker got the 2015 season off to a near-perfect start.

The 23-year-old pitcher with the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats threw five hitless innings and struck out a career-high 9 batters in an 8-6 win over the Potomac Nationals.

Baker left the game when he reached his 80-pitch limit after allowing just one walk – to Major League veteran Jayson Werth on a rehab assignment.

He throws his fastball in the mid-90s but has been clocked as high as 97 mph.

Baker, of Juneau-Douglas fame, made only 12 starts last year after missing three months with a broken ankle. He made 27 starts the year before.

This is the fourth professional season for the 2012 fifth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians. He has an 11-10 record and 3.64 ERA in 48 career games.

April 9, 2015

Pauline TufiAnchorage’s Pauline Tufi doesn’t scare easy. Risk is her middle name and danger is her friend.

But she is scared to fail in softball.

The sport kept her grounded, taught her discipline and took her all the way to Louisiana Tech University. The 19-year-old is the state’s greatest softball player, a power-hitting, power-pitching combo to the likes Alaska has never seen.

“I want to represent my state, my family and the people that have helped me over the years,” she told me, “because it’s taken a village to raise me to be the person I am today. I’m not gonna lie.”

Only a sophomore, Tufi is already one of the best players in Conference USA and arguably an MVP candidate as the only player in the league to rank in the top 10 in home runs and earned runs allowed.

Talk about a two-headed terror, which is exactly what she was like growing up.

“I was a wild child, honestly,” she said with a laugh.

Tufi, of West High fame, credits playing sports for keeping her focused and her support circle for making sure she stayed on course. They saw something special in her, even the times when she didn’t.

“My family, my coaches, my friends, it took a lot because, like, I was crazy,” she said. “But getting into sports pulled my energy away from those things. I got to put it into something productive. I needed sports to take my minds off of things going on around me.”

Today, Tufi terrorizes Conference USA.

The 5-foot-10 slugger leads LaTech in home runs [9], RBIs [27] and walks [20] while also serving as one of the team’s three pitchers. The right-hander is 4-0 with 5 saves and a 2.56 ERA.

“It feels great, but I can’t think of the overall picture right now or overwhelm my thoughts because I take it day-by day,” she said. “That’s the thing I’ve come to learn with softball in college is that there’s a process and you have to take it pitch by pitch and play your game.”

April 8, 2015

Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

Hitting the long ball isn’t really his game, but Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks can knock it out of the park.

The freshman center fielder hit his first home run for Arizona Western College during a 14-3 win over Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

“It felt great to get my first home run as a college player but that’s not what I swing for,” Bynum told me. “I swing for the team and the situation we are in.”

The former Alaska player of the year out of Monroe Catholic High hit a two-run shot over the center field fence for his only hit in three at-bats. The game lasted only five innings.

Bynum raised his batting average to .329 in 41 games.

He ranks No. 1 on the team with 8 stolen bases, second with 22 walks and 31 runs and third with 29 RBIs and a .451 on-base percentage.

Bynum is batting .500 since March 7 [28-for-56].