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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Many times in sports it’s not the number of times that a team falls behind on the scoreboard, and how each individual might get mentally rattled that defines them. But it’s the number of times the team — and the individuals on that team —pick themselves back up that matter most.
And because baseball is one part team, and one part individual, the mix must be right. It’s the team that wins and loses. But the pitcher is all alone on the mound; the batter stands in the box by himself; each fielder and base runner is responsible for their own actions.
And each person must play an intregral part for a win.
So when Ketchikan Post 3 coughed up a 3-2 lead in the third inning against Eagle River’s American Legion ball club during Saturday’s conference game, Post 3 head coach Johnny Milner huddled his team together outside the third base dugout at Walker Field.
Now down 8-3, Post 3 needed to regroup.
“We let it get away from us,” he said. “And as coaches that’s frustrating because that’s what we’ve been focusing on — staying positive. And you could hear in that inning, guys getting on each other. And that’s how mistakes compounded, making mistake after mistake.”
Milner’s words worked. And Ketchikan began to show life again.
Post 3 didn’t score in the top of the fourth inning of the conference game. It left the bases loaded.
But the light switch had flipped. And Ketchikan lit up the scoreboard in the fifth.
Post 3 sent 15 batters to the plate in the frame, and scored nine runs, taking a 12-8 lead over Eagle River. And Ketchikan rallied back to win Game 1 of the day’s doubleheader 16-10.
“The good news, they were able to regain their composure, and get the energy back in the right direction in the dugout,” Milner said. “And again, if you have the right positve talk, and the right focus, (good) things happen. And they really opened it up in that (fifth) inning.”
The offense carried over into Game 2, as Post 3 plated 10 runs in the first inning, and Ketchikan won the non-confernce matchup 15-2.
“The bats came alive that first inning,” Milner said of the second game. “And we got a couple younger guys some innings on the hill. ... Terik (Brown) pitched well. And CJ (Jasper) came in, and closed it out.”
The day started promising.
Ketchikan’s Wyatt Barajas cranked a two-run homerun to deep center field in the top of the first inning of Game 1.
It was the first of three homeruns Post 3 hit during the twin bill. Tug Olson and Liam Kiffer also hit blasts during the first inning of Game 2.
But the wheels came off in that third inning of Game 1, as Eagle River took its 8-3 lead.
Olson, who started on the mound, had some defensive miscues behind him. And that led to Eagle River plating five runs in the third inning.
“Tug didn’t do bad,” Milner said. “That third inning — I don’t care who you are — if you have to get six outs an inning, it’s going to be tough. And we had to get at least six, I felt like.”
Gabe Bowlen relieved Olson in the third, and retired the final out of the inning.
“Part of that (is) we have everybody on a low pitch count,” Milner said. “Even lower today because it’s (just a couple) days before we go up north (to Anchorage). So I kept everybody under 60 pitches.”
After Bowlen sat down Eagle River 1-2-3 in the fourth inning, Post 3 exploded for its nine-run fifth.
Tyler Slick led off the inning with a walk — a bad baseball omen from Eagle River’s perspective — and sure enough the leadoff free pass came around to score.
Up and down the lineup, everyone contributed, as Post 3 nearly batted around the lineup twice.
“It was kind of station to station — single, single, single — but they did really well at the plate,” Milner said. “They weren’t trying to do too much. Usually, after you get down like that, you worry about guys swinging for the homeruns, trying to fix it all in one swing. But you can’t do that.
“So I thought they all did really well at the plate, knowing (the situation),” he continued. “And just put it in play.”
Even the first two outs of the inning were productive, as they led to runs.
“It was very big (to have everyone contribute),” Milner said. “Even a couple guys off the bench got in that inning. Vinny (Trujillo) had a really nice hit. That was before it broke open, but really kept it going.”
After taking a 12-8 lead, Ketchikan tacked on four more runs in the seventh inning, giving itself 16 tallies.
In total, Ketchikan scored 31 runs on Saturday, and outscored Eagle River 28-4 after Milner’s third inning pep talk.
Post 3’s offense came alive during the fifth inning in three of the four games against Eagle River this weekend, totaling 22 runs in the frame.
During Friday’s doubleheader, Ketchikan scored eight runs in the fifth inning of Game 1, and plated five more in the fifth of Game 2.
It had a nine-run fifth inning in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Saturday’s second game ended after 4 1/2 innings, before Ketchikan batted in the fifth, due to the run differential.
“I can’t explain it,” Milner said. “Part of that, I’m sure, is just coming through your (lineup a) second and third time (around) at the plate, and guys getting more comfortable.”
On to Anchorage
The pair of weekend doubleheaders against Eagle River closed out the home portion of Post 3’s schedule this season. The remaining games will be played in Anchorage.
Post 3 will begin a eight-game stretch in Anchorage on Tuesday, playing four consecutive days of doubleheaders from July 2-5.
After a week to recoup, Ketchikan will return to Anchorage on July 19.
The time traveling together will allow Post 3’s roster to gel even more.
“This is a really fun group,” Milner said. “It’s probably the best group, as far as camaraderie.”
All arms on deck
Because of the sheer number of games Ketchikan will be playing this week — eight games in four days — Milner and his coaching staff will have to keep an eye on pitch counts.
Under American Legion baseball rules, pitchers have a 105-pitch limit per game. But the trick is in balancing relievers, and if you want a pitcher to toss the next day, as well.
A player is only allowed to pitch the ensuing day if he tossed 30 pitches or less. And the number of pitches allowed, and number of days off go up from there.
The road trip is guaranteed to be a juggling act of pitchers’ arms.
“The goal was to get out of the weekend with everybody available, so I don’t have to think about this weekend, while also thinking about this next trip,” Milner said. “So everybody will be available. Everybody is probably going to get to (pitch) in Anchorage.”