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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
By this point in the season, the Ketchikan Post 3 baseball team knows its competition — for the most part.
But Friday was a first.
Ketchikan met South Open’s ball club at Bartlett High School in Anchorage in the Matson Invitational on Friday evening, and for the first time Alaska Legion Baseball allowed an “intermediate team between JV and varsity” join its varsity tournament.
“I hadn’t seen (that) before,” Ketchikan head coach Johnny Milner said. “They aren’t part of the 16 teams in varsity (in Alaska Legion Baseball), but they played 19 games against varsity teams.”
That said, Milner knew South Anchorage is a productive baseball community, and the label of JV or varsity didn’t matter.
South Open’s squad went 10-9 in those 19 games against varsity competition this season.
“They’re a solid team — younger,” Milner said. “But I’d put them as the third or fourth seed in this tournament. ... I wouldn’t be surprised to see them (make a run) in this tournament.”
Because it’s an intermediate squad, South Open has the No. 17 seed in the Matson Invitational, and had to play a play-in game against Bartlett Post 29 (2-26) Friday morning.
South Open beat Bartlett 7-1.
But Friday night, against the tournament’s top-seeded Ketchikan Post 3 ball club, there would be different outcome.
Ketchikan jumped out to a five-run lead in the bottom of the first inning, and never took its foot off the gas pedal.
Post 3 won its first game in the Matson Invitational 10-0. The game was called after 4 1/2 innings due to the run differential.
With the win, Ketchikan advances in the double-elimination tournament, and will play North Pole Post 30 at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
North Pole beat Fairbanks Post 11 6-3 on Friday.
“It was a nice start to the tournament,” Milner said of the victory.
Ketchikan batted around, as it sent nine hitters to the plate in the first inning, but only had two hits to show for it.
Dylan Nedzwecky and Tug Olson each hit singles. But in between, both Wyatt Barajas and Korbin Stack walked, and Liam Kiffer and Hayden McGarrigan reached base due to third strike pitches bouncing to the back stop.
In all, Ketchikan scored its 10 runs on just six hits. Post 3 also was gifted five walks.
“It was a big relief,” Milner said of the first inning’s offensive outburtst. “That’s where we’ve struggled all year. We moved Liam and Wyatt down to the No. 3 and No. 4 spots (in the lineup earlier this month). It was nice to jump out like that.”
Moving the duo down a spot in the lineup allowed the rest of the team to wreak havoc. Tug Olson finished the day 2-for-2, with two runs scored. Azariah Schultz also had a 2-for-2 day.
Ketchikan tacked on one run in the bottom of the second inning, and four more in the third frame, before the game finished after the top of the fourth.
Post 3 pulled Kiffer from the mound after just 2 2/3 innings. He struck out five, and allowed just one hit in his outing. With the early exit, Kiffer will need only one day’s rest before he’s able to return to the mound, due to pitch count rules.
“Liam did phenomenal,” Milner said.
McGarrigan relieved Kiffer, and needed less than 30 pitches to finish off the remaining 2 1/3 innings.
“Hayden was real efficient,” Milner said. “He’s pitched really well for us all year.”
After needing less than 30 pitches to close out Friday night’s game against South Open, McGarrigan will be available to pitch again on Saturday.
Wyatt Barajas will start against North Pole. The two teams closed out the regular season against each other on July 21 in Anchorage.
Post 3 and Post 30 split their double-header.
Liam Kiffer will be the only pitcher not available for Milner and his squad, but Kiffer will be eligible to play the field and hit. Kiffer can take the mound again on Sunday.
Follow the tourney
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome against North Pole, Ketchikan will play on Sunday.
If Post 3 beats North Pole, it will play in the Matson Invitational semifinal at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
If Post 3 loses Saturday’s matchup, it will play at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
All of the Matson Invitational games are livestreamed at alaskalegion.com.