Connecting You With AK Athletes – For 12 Years Strong!!

Alaska Sports Blog editor and senior writer Van Williams has been the driving force behind the blog since Day 1. A 30-year Alaska sports journalist, he provides comprehensive daily coverage of Alaska athletes from all over the world and serves as one of the state’s premier sports historians. The blog came to life on Aug. 24, 2009, as a way to fill a void of media coverage of Alaska athletes once they left the 907 area code. Nobody tracks Alaska athletes better than Williams, a former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner.

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June 22, 2021

Dylan Baker

Juneau’s Dylan Baker has racked up a ton of triumphs on the baseball field. Junior college regional pitcher of the year. Sixth-highest MLB draft pick from Alaska. Nine-year pro career.

Now you can add another: Double-A call up at age 29.

Baker’s promotion came courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds, who recently signed the rocket right-hander to a minor league deal and shipped him off to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Double-A South division.

The 29-year-old was called up from the American Association of Professional Baseball, an independent league. He had been with the Kansas City Monarchs.

“I knew I was always good enough to get back to affiliated ball,” Baker said, “but my biggest thing was just stay healthy. If I do that, I’m giving myself the best chance for teams to watch me.”

It’s rare for a player at his age, from an independent league, to get signed by a major league organization, so this was definitely one of the most rewarding results in his nine-year pro career.

“I actually got a call from my agent and I was just thinking to myself, ‘He’s calling to check in and probably see how my outing went the night before,’” said Baker. “I wasn’t wrong but he also asked how does being a Cincinnati Red sound. I said a few words that I won’t mention but I was incredibly happy.”

He last played for a MLB affiliate in 2018 when he pitched for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He also pitched for the Double-A Tulsa RubberDucks of the Cleveland organization in 2017.

Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, is one of just 12 Alaskans to reach the Double-A level.

He got back there by pitching lights out in the American Association. In four games with the Monarchs, he posted a 2-0 record and 2.57 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings.

“I knew I was pitching pretty well this year and giving myself a chance to get picked up by a team but also knew I can’t think about that every day.”

This was Baker’s third season in the American Association, a respected independent league that gained some traction after MLB restructured its minor league system and eliminated many teams.

The league is packed with former draft picks and elite players like Baker, a fifth-round MLB draft pick by Cleveland in 2012 as a 20-year-old out of Western Nevada College.

In his final college season, Baker went 13-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 84.2 innings. He held opponents to a .155 batting average and was named NJCAA Region 18 Pitcher of the Year.

As a pro player, he has been affiliated with MLB clubs Cleveland, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and now Cincinnati.

Baker ranks No. 3 all-time among Alaskans in the minor leagues with 420 innings and No. 6 with 345 strikeouts. His 25 starts and 117 strikeouts in 2013 are the second most in a single season among Alaskans. His eight saves in 2018 rank third.

“Age definitely hasn’t slowed me down but I have realized I have to take better care of myself and put myself in the best situation possible,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time so it’s going to be a good and fun year.”

Baker is the prototypical power pitcher – hard fastball, hard slider. His fastball is clocked at 95-98 mph and his slider comes in in the 86-89 range. He also throws a split-finger fastball as an offspeed pitch.

“I would say my stuff is pretty similar to what it has always been,” he said. “My mechanics have changed some but my velo and all that is there. Really excited to get going and get into a groove.”

June 21, 2021

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby was named Alaska Athlete of the Week after becoming the first swimmer from Alaska to qualify for the Olympics, recording a sizzling second-place finish in the 100-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

The 17-year-old came back from fifth place at the halfway mark to nearly catch defending Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, who posted the world’s fastest time of the year in 1:04.79.

Jacoby now has the world’s second-best time of 1:05.28. Jacoby, who was by far the youngest swimmer in the finals, improved on her own national age-group record by.43 of a second.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.

June 19, 2021

Ruthy Hebard

She isn’t used to starting the game on the bench, but Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks is definitely accustomed to being on the court for crunch time.

The second-year forward got hot in the second half to lift the Chicago Sky to a 91-81 victory over the visiting Connecticut Sun in the WNBA.

Hebard scored 13 of her team’s final 51 points to help seal the deal for Chicago, which posted its fifth straight win.

Four times in the second half she scored the go-ahead basket, capped by a layup with 3:35 left that gave the Sky the lead for good at 78-76.

She finished 6-for-7 from the floor and added a career-high four steals. She also had an and-1 that put Chicago up 63-61 late in the third quarter.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, is averaging a career-best 9.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

The 6-foot-4 forward has started six of 14 games and 12 of 36 games for her career.

The former NCAA All-American was a four-year starter at the University of Oregon.

And last winter in her first season in the Turkish Super League she was an everyday starter and a five-time player of the week.

This year in the WNBA, Hebard’s game has come alive. Her numbers are up and her minutes are up, despite the team adding another power forward in five-time all-star Candance Parker.

There was some concern that Parker’s signing would cut into Hebard’s playing time, but actually the exact opposite happened.

No doubt the Alaskan is soaking up knowledge from the future Hall of Famer.

And as a result, Hebard has flourished. She already has three double-doubles and stays ready for when her number is called, like today.

June 18, 2021

Zak Hammill

Anchorage’s Zak Hammill has been named U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s Development Coach of the Year for ski jumping and nordic combined.

Of all the coaches across the nation, the 30-year-old with the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage was seen as the most effective at these two disciplines.

Hammill has been in charge of NSAA’s ski jumping and nordic combined programs since 2013.

The ski jumping program has really taken flight under Hammill. With 60 athletes, ranging in ages 4 to 40, it’s the second-largest ski jumping club in the country.

He worked with the club to get funding for equipment to better prepare the hill at the Karl Eid Jumping Complex. He has spearheaded other upgrades and is assisting in the planning of a new clubhouse.

“Zak took a chance on us and Alaska when he moved here. We were just starting out and needed someone with depth of knowledge about ski jumping and Nordic combined,” said longtime NSAA volunteer Karen Compton. “Lucky for us, Zak fell in love with Alaska and decided to stay. Over those years he transformed our program into one of the biggest and best in the nation. He is so deserving of this award and I’m glad the national organization is recognizing the amazing job he’s done.”

The 2020-2021 season was extremely rewarding for Hammill, who helped developed the likes of Carter Brubaker, the Oswalds, Skyler Amy and Ronen Woods.

Brubaker was Alaska’s first nordic combined representative at the U.S. Junior National Team and Junior World Championships. Julia Oswald won the nordic combined at the U12 Western Regionals. Elias Oswald won ski jumping and nordic combined titles at the U14 Western Regionals. Amy and Woods were victorious in the team sprint at U16 Junior Nationals, and Amy also placed third in nordic combined at Junior Nationals.

The common thread in Alaska’s success was Hammill.

“Zak is a huge part of the success our club and his athletes are starting to experience outside Alaska,” Brubaker said. “Zak is genuine, kind and hard-working. I’m happy that he is finally being nationally recognized for the outstanding coach that I know him to be. It’s about time.”

June 17, 2021

Leland Wilson

Some familiar faces came back to haunt the Alaska Legion All-Stars during the annual Sladen Mohl Game against the Anchorage Bucs.

Bucs starter Leland Wilson out of West pitched five fabulous innings and infielder Ricky Gatter out of South went 4-for-4 and reached base in all five plate appearances to power a 13-3 victory in the exhibition game at Mulcahy Stadium.

The game capped the four-day College Coaches Camp, which celebrated its 27th year this summer.

Wilson, who just finished his freshman season at Texas Tech University, struck out seven batters while giving up four hits, one walk and one run.

The Bucs saved a run in the second inning after center fielder Woody Hadeen gunned down a runner at the plate, taking an RBI away from Dimond’s Joe Moriarty.

Gatter, who just completed his freshman season at Skagit Valley College, lined base hits to all parts of the field in addition to an infield single. He scored twice, drove in two runs and walked.

Ricky Gatter

Another local player for the Bucs, former West player Luke Langnes from Grinnell College, walked twice, scored twice and had an RBI.

The Bucs’ Pac-12 power hitter Jake Skipworth out of Cal-Berkeley had five RBIs on a double and two-run home run to left field.

For the Legion All-Stars, Eagle River’s Jack Molloy pitched his team’s lone scoreless inning and Eagle River’s Josh Thompson, Bartlett’s Carl Colavecchio and Wasilla’s Pedro Camacho each scored a run.

Base hits came from Dimond’s Logan Sweet, Eagle River’s Josh Thompson and Cam Witte, Dimond’s Moriarty and South’s Isaac Johnson. Johnson also pitched 1.1 innings.

The Legion All-Star team featured 22 players, including eight underclassmen as the youth movement continues in The Last Frontier.

“The direction of Alaska baseball is moving upward,” said Central Washington University’s Joel Johnson, one of seven college coaches from the camp.

Johnson was also here in 2018 and said Alaska baseball has stepped up since then.

“That’s a credit to the coaches in the area for taking care of the young guys,” Johnson said.

The College Coaches Camp is sponsored by Alaska Airlines and the Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska.

The camp is named after its founding father Bill Lierman Sr., the former Chugiak coach and Bucs president who passed away in 2004.

The annual game was named after Sladen Mohl, who played for South and the Bucs before he was killed tragically by a DUI driver in 2019.

June 16, 2021

Danika Brown

The American Volleyball Coaches Association has recognized Anchorage’s Danica Brown as one of the best players in the country.

The Edmonds College sophomore was named to the AVCA Two-Year College All-American Second Team for the first time.

Brown, of West High fame, is coming off a super season at Edmonds, where she ranked fourth in the NWAC with a .306 attack percentage.

The 6-foot-2 middle blocker averaged 2.5 kills and 3.1 points per set.

Brown owns a career .272 attack percentage on 226 kills and 76 errors on 559 attempts.

June 15, 2021

Lydia Jacoby

You can now call Seward’s Lydia Jacoby an Olympian.

The 17-year-old became the first swimmer from Alaska to qualify for the Summer Olympics after she recorded a sizzling second-place finish in the 100-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

Jacoby came back from fifth place at the halfway mark to nearly catch defending Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, who posted the world’s fastest time of the year in 1:04.79.

Jacoby now has the world’s second-best time of 1:05.28.

“The land of the midnight sun is a little brighter tonight,” said an NBC announcer on the national broadcast.

Jacoby, who swims for Seward High and the Seward Tsunami Swim Club, never wilted under the bright lights of a meet competitors call the ‘Super Bowl’ of swimming.

She had her game face on from the very beginning, but was especially focused for the finals and her chance at making history.

“I tried messing with her in the ready room, but she wasn’t having it,” King said during the NBC broadcast. “I respect that and am glad to have a new partner heading into Toyko. She awesome.”

The baby of the bunch, Jacoby was by far the youngest swimmer in a finals field that included seven women ages 24 to 30.

In the finals, Jacoby improved on her national age-group record by.43 of a second faster than her time of 1:05.71 set in Monday’s semifinals.

She was the first Alaskan since Petersburg’s Derek Gibb in 2004 to compete in a Olympic Trials semifinals, and is now the first Alaskan to advance to the finals at the Trials.

“It means so much to me to be able to represent my state at a meet like this,” Jacoby told Swimming World Magazine. “And I’m so excited to now represent
my country as well. It’s amazing.”

June 13, 2021

John Heaphy

Eagle River’s John Heaphy beat out 22 swimmers in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke to place 27th out of 49 finishers at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

The 20-year-old touched the wall in 1 minute, 1.92 seconds and was sixth in his prelims heat.

Heaphy just wrapped up his freshman season at Arizona State University of the Pac-12 Conference.

This was his first appearance at the Olympic Trials.

Heaphy, of Eagle River High fame, came into the meet ranked No. 26 in the breaststroke.

His heat featured stiff competition as four finished inside the top 20.

Heaphy qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2019 with a time of 1:02.75. Later that summer he lowered his PR to 1:01.53 at the Speedo sectionals in Arizona.

June 12, 2021

Lauren Murphy

Eagle River’s Lauren Murphy used a dominating second-round performance to carry her to a split decision over Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The 37-year-old Alaskan picked up her fifth straight victory in the women’s flyweight division, moving to 15-4 for her pro career and 7-4 in the UFC, the world’s premier MMA league.

Up next for Murphy could get a much-deserved title shot against flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.

Murphy’s seven career UFC wins ranks No. 1 for Alaskans, breaking a tie with six-time winner Jared Cannonier of Anchorage. Murphy is tied with Cannier with 11 UFC appearances, the most by an Alaskan.

Murphy edged Calderwood 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 in a fight that was as close as it gets.

“That’s what I do. I find ways to win these fights,” Murphy said in a post-fight interview on ESPN. “I’m going to keep finding ways to win these fights and I want these tough tests.”

Murphy, of Chugiak High fame, was the stronger fighter and used her reach advantage and superior boxing skills to control the first round. She opened up with a beautiful 1-2 combo and later used her jab and right hand to win the round.

“She’s such a bulldog,” UFC commentator Joe Rogan said during the broadcast. “She really does bully girls around the octagon.”

Murphy really took control of the fight thanks to a sensational second round that probably earned her a 10-8 score from at least one of the judges.

She executed a takedown early in the round and pinned Calderwood against the fence for four minutes, landing punches to the face and elbow shots to the body.

“I knew she was going to be really tough, but I knew that if I could get the takedown, I could be very dominant and I also knew this would be a very tough test for me.”

The 35-year-old Calderwood (15-6) won the third round and bloodied Murphy’s right eye.

Calderwood came into this matchup between top flyweight title contenders as a slight favorite, but Murphy found a way.

“I want to come in here and be tested against the toughest, best girls in the world,” Murphy said.

“Of course, I was looking for the finish tonight. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it, but I’m going to take a victory any way that I can. That’s what makes me one of the best fighters in the world.”

June 10, 2021

Terren Sugita

A couple of local boys are off to a sizzling start in the Alaska Baseball League.

Anchorage’s Terren Sugita currently leads the league in batting and Wasilla’s James Arend is tied for the league lead in ERA and sits second in strikeouts.

The ABL is a premier summer league comprised of top college players from around the country.

The league features at least 13 Alaskans among the six teams.

Sugita, of South High fame, is batting .500 on 5-of-10 hitting for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots.

The utility player has two RBIs and a .583 on-base percentage in three games.

James Arend

Sugita is coming off a strong season at Vermilion College, where he hit .365 with eight home runs in 32 games.

He was named to the Minnesota College Athletic Conference North All-Division Team.

Arend, of Wasilla High fame, is coming off a redshirt season at Corban University.

The right-handed pitcher threw five scoreless innings for the Mat-Su Miners and picked up his first ABL winning decision in a 2-1 win over the Peninsula Oilers.

Arend had struck out seven batters in eight innings and is yet to allow an earned run.

June 9, 2021

Brody Jessee

Anchorage’s Brody Jessee saw his fabulous freshman season at the University of Gonzaga come to an end after a 9-4 loss to LSU in the NCAA Regional in Eugene, Oregon.

The freshman reliever finished it off by pitching a scoreless eighth inning, closing out one of the most successful seasons in Gonzaga baseball history.

Gonzaga finished the season 34-19 for a .642 winning percentage, the second highest in almost four decades. The Zags also had their highest-ever national ranking and best-ever seeding in their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2018.

Jessee, of South High fame, faced only three LSU batters during his lone inning of work. A leadoff single was erased by a double play and he struck out the final hitter he faced.

The Alaskan made 17 appearances on the season and was one of nine Gonzaga players to earn an All-West Coast Conference nod.

Jessee picked up two winning decisions and earned four saves, taking over as the Zags closer in April before a late-season injury kept him off the field for nearly a month.

The 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out 33 batters in 25 innings and posted a 4.68 ERA.

Jesse gave up nine of 13 earned runs in two games; take them out of the equation and his ERA drops to 1.64.

June 8, 2021

Jonny Homza

Anchorage’s Jonny Homza wasted no time extending his 13-game hitting streak, sending the fourth pitch of the game over the left-field wall.

The leadoff hitter hammered a home run in the first inning and added another solo shot in the fifth inning to finish 2-for-4 for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in a 8-3 loss to the Lake County Captains in the High-A Central League.

This was the second time in 218 career games that the 21-year-old has hit two home runs in the same game. The first time was in 2019 when he played for Auckland of the Australian Baseball League.

Homza has now hit safely in 13 straight games, by far the longest stretch of his four-year pro career. This is the eighth time that the Alaskan has had a hitting streak of five games or longer. They have ranged from five games to seven games, but nothing like 13 games.

Homza, of South High fame, has raised his season batting average 115 points .140 to .255 since May 22, thanks to this hot streak. He’s also pushed his slugging percentage to a career-best .543 in 94 at-bats this season.

He’s batting .353 on 18-of-51 hitting across the last 13 games with three home runs and 16 RBIs.

Homza is usually the starting catcher but has been used at shortstop, third base and designated hitter this season.

June 7, 2021

Jaron Williams

Team Alaska accounted for half of the scoring for the Spokane College men’s basketball team in a 103-80 victory over Blue Mountain the NWAC.

Anchorage’s Kaeleb Johnson and Jaron Williams along with Juneau’s Bryson Echiverri had a hand in 52 points.

Johnson came off the bench to pump in 16 points and flirt with his season high (18).

Echiverri combined for 22 points with eight points and five assists, and Williams combined for 14 points with five points and four assists.

The Alaskans have keyed Spokane’s late-season push that has seen the team win six of its last eight games.

Bryson Echiverri

Williams and Echiverri have each started 11 games and both rank top-five on the team in points, rebounds and assists.

Williams, of East High fame, is a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard.

He is averaging 13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

He leads Spokane in free-throw attempts and makes and has season highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Williams shot 40 percent from the field, but 47 percent from inside the arc.

Echiverri, of Thunder Mountain High fame, is a 5-foot-11 freshman guard.

Kaeleb Johnson

He is averaging 8.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

Echiverri leads the team in assists and posted double figures in three of nine games.

His scoring season high is 21 points and he has dished out five assists or more three times.

Johnson, of East High fame, is a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard.

He is Spokane’s top scoring option coming off the bench at 10.9 points per game.

This was the second time in the last five games that he scored 16 points in a game. Both times he made four 3-pointers.

June 5, 2021

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks has more double-doubles in her WNBA career than the four other Alaskans who played in the league put together.

And it took her just 31 games.

The second-year Chicago Sky forward posted her fourth career double-double with a 14-point, 10-rebound effort against the Los Angeles Sparks.

She had one double-double in 22 games as a rookie and already has three in nine games this year.

In 1999, Juneau’s Andrea Lloyd became the first Alaskan to have a double-double in the WNBA.

Eagle River’s Kelsey Griffin was the second Alaska with a WNBA double-double in 2012. She had another one in 2013.

Then came Hebard.

The former NCAA All-American out of the University of Oregon has rewritten the record book.

The 6-foot-4 forward has nearly doubled her scoring average from last season, going from 5.7 to 10.9 points per game.

Hebard currently ranks 11th in the WNBA with 7.7 rebounds per game.

She is also averaging a career-best 27.9 minutes, 1.4 blocked shots, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals per game.

June 3, 2021

Dylan Baker

Juneau’s Dylan Baker picked up his second winning decision in three starts with the Kansas City Monarchs and in the process moved up to No. 3 on the all-time list for career innings among Alaskans at the professional level.

The 29-year-old right-handed pitcher is back on the mound for his ninth pro season and off to a strong start, producing a 2-0 record and 1.93 ERA in his first three appearances.

Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has struck out 15 batters in 14 innings while holding opponents to a .150 batting average.

The former fifth-round MLB draft pick is in his third season in the American Association of Professional Baseball, an independent league.

Baker has played as high as the Double-A level in 2017 with the Cleveland organization and 2019 with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

In nine seasons, he has started 74 of his 130 career appearances at the pro level.

Baker’s 410 innings ranks No. 3 on Alaska’s all-time list among professional pitchers after he passed Sitka’s Matt Way (406).

Baker ranks No. 6 on the all-time strikeout list with 345, needing just 14 more to catch Anchorage’s Corey Madden (359) for the No. 5 spot.

June 2, 2021

Travante Williams

Anchorage’s Travante Williams has done just about everything in the Portuguese League.

Titles, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year. Been there, done that.

But his performance in the final two games of the best-of-5 Finals series might be his greatest accomplishment.

Benched for Game 3, Williams returned to the starting lineup for Games 4 and 5 and led Sporting Club of Portugal to the Portuguese League championship.

The Alaskan was awesome in the decisive Game 5 with 21 points, eight assists, four steals and three rebounds to highlight an 86-85 win over FC Porto.

Former Gonzaga standout Micah Downs’s free throw with 1 second left in regulation iced the win, but it was Williams who made the biggest difference.

He turned in his best effort of the series; maybe of his career, given the stakes.

Williams played a significant role for Sporting in its three Finals wins:

In Game 1, he dished off a career-high 10 assists in a two-point win.

In Game 4, he pumped in 19 points and made 10-of-13 free throws in a four-point win.

And in Game 5, ‘Takeover Travante’ poured in a team-high 19 points in a one-point win.

By comparison, FC Porto won Game 2 by 12 points and Game 3 by 14 points.

This is why Williams was named Finals MVP – he was the difference in the series.

The 6-foot-4 small forward has played big the entire time of his four-year career in the Portuguese League.

He won his first two championships with Oliveirense in 2018 and 2019 before moving to Sporting. Then the 2020 season was cut short because of COVID.

Sporting had not played in the Portuguese League for two decades before coming back in the fall of 2020. One of the team’s first moves was signing Williams, who has emerged as the most consequential player in the country.

His teams have compiled a staggering 126-15 record in his tenure in Portugal.

June 1, 2021

Philip Wall

A heads-up defensive play by Juneau’s Philip Wall helped save the University of Northwestern baseball team’s season.

It was a wild 13-inning game with a walk-off finish as the Northwestern beat Misericordia 7-6 in the NCAA D3 Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Wall started at first base and batted 1-for-5 with a run and sacrifice bunt.

But it was the senior’s defense that drew the most attention. With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the 13th inning, Wall made an acrobatic grab on an errant throw from the shortstop and somehow got the tag on the runner to keep the game tied and save a run.

Wall was hurt on the play and wasn’t able to take his at-bat in the bottom half of the 13th inning, but he was still connected to the winning play. Northwestern scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly by Ben Spores, who came into the game as a pinch-hitter for Wall.

The Alaskan did not play in the Midwest Regional final as Northwestern lost 3-2 to Johns Hopkins, which advanced to the D3 World Series.

Wall capped his college career as one of the best pitcher-hitter combos from The Last Frontier. He was a 16-game winner on the mound and hit .300 for his career.

Wall showcased his two-way skills at the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament when he pitched a 9-inning complete game one day and crushed his first home run the next day.

He threw a career-high 75.1 innings this season, the sixth most in a single season in school history. He also moved into the No. 5 spot on Northwestern’s all-time list with 218.1 career innings.

May 30, 2021

Allie Ostrander

Kenai’s Allie Ostrander returned to the track for the first time in more than a year.

The pandemic of course played a role in shutting down her 2020 season, but she also used the break to deal with her nagging Achilles injury.

The 23-year-old professional runner turned to platelet-rich plasma therapy to help accelerate the healing.

And although she isn’t pain free, Ostrander feels well enough to get back to doing what she does best.

Two weeks after making her season debut in the 5,000 meters in Irvine, California, she competed in her first steeplechase race since 2020 at the Portland Track Festival over the weekend in Oregon.

Ostrander finished sixth out of 13 women in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:38.72.

It was a stacked field that saw Courtney Frerichs post a convincing win in 9:21.13 while Valerie Constien and Lizzie Bird each ran personal bests and hit the Olympic standard.

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, was a three-time NCAA championship in the steeplechase at Boise State University.

She has since signed with Brooks Beasts Track Club out of Seattle, Washington.

Two weeks ago, the Alaskan improved her Olympic Trials qualifying time in the 5,000 by running 15:18.45.

She had not raced since February 2020 when she won the 3,000 meters with a PR of 8:48 at the Millrose Games for her first victory as a professional.

May 29, 2021

Liam Kiffer, Wyatt Barajas, Cody Kemble

Three freshmen from Ketchikan are making sure the Clackamas College baseball team finishes the season on a high note.

In the span of three days, Wyatt Barajas pitched his first college shutout, Liam Kiffer had two hits and two RBIs in a game for the second time, and Cody Kimble came out of the bullpen to throw his best effort of the year.

In high school and Legion, they formed one of the state’s most formidable trios.

Now they have teamed up in the NWAC.

Barajas spun a 4-hit complete-game masterpiece to shut out a 20-win Mt. Hood team 4-0.

The 6-foot-2 right-hander issued three walks, struck out two batters and retired 10 straight across the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. He threw 101 pitches in seven innings, 59 for strikes.

This was the first win for Barajas, who posted 21 strikeouts in 29.1 innings over nine appearances. He also had two saves.

Barajas is one of two Clackamas pitchers to have a save and complete game this season.

The other one is Kimble. Both Alaskans rank among the top four in innings, with Kimble second (33.2) and Barajas fourth.

Kimble closed out a 9-7 loss to Southwestern Oregon with four shutout frames in his five innings of work. He allowed three hits and two runs while striking out three. He kept the game close to give his team a chance to come back.

His game ERA of 3.60 ranks only behind his 2.08 effort in 4.1 innings against Linn-Benton.

In the same game, Kiffer started in left field and batted 2-for-4 with a walk, run and two RBIs. This was his best game since going 3-for-4 with two RBIs against Umpqua.

He has seven RBIs in 16 games and has drawn nearly as many walks (11) as he has strikeouts (12). Kiffer ranks fourth on the team with a .391 on-base percentage.

May 27, 2021

Danyel Finley

Alyssa Oswald

Former Colony High softball teammates Danyel Finley and Alyssa Oswald of Wasilla faced off in college for the first time.

The two freshmen were right in the middle of the action when Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley squared off for a four-game NWAC series.

Finley got ultimate bragging rights after getting a base hit off Oswald as Columbia Basin won the series.

Finley has been on a tear of late, hitting .375 in the last week.

She started the season 0-for-8 before turning it around to go 3-for-8 and raise her batting average 188 points. In Columbia Basin’s 24-5 win over Yakima Valley, Finley was brought in as a pinch hitter and Oswald was on the mound. Finley delivered a two-out single to drive in a run for her first RBI of the season.

Oswald is a triple-threat star for Yakima Valley as a pitcher, shortstop and hitter. She has bagged nine RBIs in 18 games, thrown a complete game and ranks third on her team with 24 defensive assists.

May 25, 2021

Anchorage’s Keith Johnson was named the Alaska Athlete of the Week after he joined some of the biggest names in soccer in being selected one of 20 finalists for the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

The two-time Paralympian from Alaska is listed alongside legendary names David Beckham, Hope Solo and Thierry Henry as finalists.

Johnson was a fixture on the U.S. Paralympic National Team at goalkeeper for more than a dozen years between 2003 and 2016. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was young, Johnson didn’t let that stop him from enjoying the game he loves.

Johnson, of East High fame, played on the varsity team as a senior in 1999 and helped the T-birds reach the ASAA state tournament championship game for only the second time in school history.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.

May 24, 2021

Travante Williams

The shots weren’t falling, but Anchorage’s Travante Williams kept ballin.’

The sixth-year pro dished off a career-high 10 assists to highlight Sporting Lisbon’s 74-72 win over FC Porto in Game 1 of the Portuguese League Finals.

Williams shook off an uncharacteristically poor shooting night by contributing in other ways, doubling his rebounding average, grabbing three steals and handing out enough dimes to make a dollar.

He scored just six points on 2-of-11 shooting from the floor. It snapped his 12-game streak of reaching double figures in scoring.

Williams, of Mt. Edgecumbe High fame, leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points per game.

In Game 2, Williams found his way back into double digits with a 20-point, 8-rebound, 5-assist effort.

Unfortunately, FC Porto won the game 81-69 to even the best-of-5 series at 1-1. Game 3 is Friday and Game 4 is Sunday. Game 5 later if necessary.

The 6-foot-4 small forward from Alaska is one of the most decorated pro players from Alaska.

His resume includes a 50-point game, player-of-the-year awards in two countries (Georgia, Portugal), three defensive player-of-the-year awards and three championships in the Portuguese League.

May 23, 2021

Brody Jessee

Anchorage’s Brody Jessee returned to the baseball field for Gonzaga University for the first time in three weeks.

He picked up right where he left off, striking out both batters he faced in the eighth inning of a 3-2 win over the University of San Francisco in the Big West Conference.

Jessee’s disappearing slider continues to wreak havoc on opposing batters as he has racked up 32 strikeouts in just 22.1 innings.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

His 13.0 strikeout/per 9-inning ratio is off the charts and would rank No. 1 in the WCC had he qualified with more innings.

The freshman had missed most of May before returning over the weekend to pitch in Game 2 and Game 3 against San Francisco as the Zags won the three-game series.

Jessee, of South High fame, leads Gonzaga with four saves and ranks fourth with a 3.18 ERA in 15 appearances. His high game for strikeouts is five.

The 6-foot-4 rocket right-hander was the team’s closer before missing time, so now he’s working his way back to form. It shouldn’t take long. Opposing batters are hitting just .175 against him.

May 21, 2021

Keith Johnson

Anchorage’s Keith Johnson has joined some of the biggest names in soccer after being selected one of 20 finalists for the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

The two-time Paralympian from Alaska is listed alongside legendary names David Beckham, Hope Solo and Thierry Henry.

“Being nominated is a wonderful honor,” Johnson said. “I’m lucky to be on the list.”

The Class of 2021 ceremony is set for Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

Johnson was a fixture on the U.S. Paralympic National Team at goalkeeper for more than a dozen years between 2003 and 2016.

He twice was part of Paralympic teams at the 2004 Games in Athens and 2012 Games in London, where he won the Golden Glove Award.

He won a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympic World Cup and has been selected ‘Man of the Match’ eight times during his career.

“I couldn’t have done it without a strong support system,” Johnson said. “The athletic trainers with U.S. Soccer always kept me in the game.”

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was young, Johnson didn’t let that stop him from enjoying the game he loves. He credited Alaska coaches Jimmy Velasco and Harry Matrone for helping him develop as a young player.

Johnson, of East High fame, played on the varsity team for Matrone as a senior in 1999 and helped the T-birds reach the ASAA state tournament championship game for only the second time in school history.

“My high school coach had a big part in helping me on the national team by giving me a solid goalkeeping foundation that I learned during goalkeeper sessions after school,” Johnson said.

In 2000, he discovered the U.S. National Paralympic Team and wrote the Olympic Committee an email asking how he could get involved.

By 2003, he was part of the American squad that competed at the World Cup. The next year he was the starting goalkeeper for Team USA at the 2004 Summer Paralympics.

At the 2012 World Cup, he was in goal for his team’s 2-1 win over Ireland in the bronze-medal match.

In 2015, he anchored a 3-0 win over Venezuela at the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships.

“When I’m in goal I love to work hard and sacrifice my body to make a save,” Johnson said. “I love giving my all on the field and just making sure I never quit.”

Johnson said he dedicates every match he plays to the American Armed Forces.

“That’s what drives me,” he said. “I make saves in goal to make our military personnel proud of our national sports teams.”

May 19, 2021

Ruthy Hebard

With the Chicago Sky missing all-star forward Candace Parker, the team turned to the next woman up.

Luckily for them it was Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks.

The second-year WNBA forward filled in admirably for Parker and responded with an epic 18-point, 10-rebound, 3-block effort to lead the Sky over the Atlanta Dream 85-77.

It was Hebard’s second double-double in 25 career games in the WNBA.

“You never know how much you’re gonna play, if you’re gonna start or not,” said Hebard. “So I try to come into every game expecting to play 30 minutes or three minutes, whatever happens, just to be ready for it when I get my chance.”

She played 34 minutes, made 6-of-14 field goals and grabbed four offensive rebounds.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, also made the play of the game late in the first quarter, sinking a rainbow 20-footer off a broken play.

With the first-quarter clock winding down, Chicago guard Courtney Vandersloot threw an over-the-shoulder pass that went off Hebard’s hands.

Hebard was able to chase down the loose ball, turn and shoot. Nothing but net.

The 6-foot-4 Alaskan is known as a predominant post player with one 3-pointer in 58 career pro games.

But she’s an 80 percent career free-throw shooter in the pro ranks, so her shooting stroke is pure.

It’s just a matter of getting comfortable with letting it fly from downtown.

“The sky is the ceiling for her,” said her coach James Wade.

Hebard is now tied with Eagle River’s Kelsey Griffin with the most double-doubles in the WNBA by Alaskan.

WNBA Double-Doubles By Alaskans
1999 Andrea Lloyd Minnesota 11pts/11ast
2012 Kelsey Griffin Connecticut 13pts/10reb
2013 Kelsey Griffin Connecticut 22pts/10reb
2020 Ruthy Hebard Chicago 12pts/11reb
2021 Ruthy Hebard Chicago 18pts/10reb