KETCHIKAN (KDN) — It’s a long way, as the jet flies, between Fairbanks and Ketchikan.
But the Lathrop High School Malamutes baseball team is glad to have made the milk-run trip from the Golden Heart City to the First City for four games of baseball with the Kayhi Kings.
“We were invited to come, and we were happier than you-know-what to come here,” Lathrop head coach Ray Pulsifer II said Friday night after the second game of the day’s doubleheader with the Kings. “Our field is still under two and a half feet of snow, with six inches of gray slush on the bottom in ice. So we haven't touched a baseball field until we got here yesterday. ... Today, it was our first game (this season), period, on a diamond.”
“So we obviously have to get used to a lot of things,” he continued. “I mean, our outfielders have — we've gone to a parking lot to hit fly balls so they can actually see balls coming from the air. We have never seen flyballs come on a field in the air. ... And then the second game, this is the first time that I know of that Lathrop ever played under lights.“
That made life interesting for the Lathrop catcher, especially, during that second game on Friday night.
“And so he's like, ‘Ah, coach, I can't even see the ball. As soon as it goes up in the lights, I don't know where it is,’” Pulsifer said. “So we're getting used to a lot of things.”
But this weekend was and is a chance to play actual baseball.
“We're loving it,” he said. “I mean, it's a great experience.”
Kayhi Kings 12, Lathrop Malamutes 1
It was a fabulous Ketchikan late afternoon on Friday as the Kayhi Kings began a four-game baseball homestand at Walker Field with the Lathrop Malamutes, who are visiting the First City from Fairbanks.
The Kings were ready to play, and opened Friday’s doubleheader with a 12-1 win.
Chase Hanis was on the pitcher’s mound for Kayhi. He got two groundouts and gave up two walks before ending the first inning with a strikeout, according to game information posted on the iScore website.
Kayhi’s first inning started off with a walk delivered up to leadoff batter Colby Hanchey. Bubba Williams got onboard with a single, and Dylan Nedzwecky got another walk to load the bases for the Kings.
Kayhi clean-up batter Jesse Loughman did the job well with a two-RBI single, which was followed by a walk to Van McGarrigan.
With the score standing at 2-0, the Malamutes brought in Evan Imus to relieve starting pitcher Jeremiah Forquer. Imus got ahead of Kayhi’s Zach Hanchey in a 0-2 count, but Hanchey battled back and rapped a two-run double, putting Kayhi up 4-0.
Imus hit the next Kayhi batter, Kyan Klinger. McGarrigan made his way to home plate on a fielder’s choice hit by Hanis. Then, Colby Hanchey knocked a single to bring Zach Hanchey home for Kayhi’s sixth and final run of the first inning.
The 6-0 score would hold until the top of the fourth inning, when Lathrop posted one run to make it 6-1.
Then Kayhi got back to scoring runs in the bottom of the fourth inning — jump started by doubles from Williams and Loughman.
After two more runs were scored on a Lathrop error, Kayhi’s lead was 9-1 going into the fifth inning. Two strikes outs by Hanis and one pop-fly out later, the Kings were back up to bat.
Hanis helped his cause with a single to lead off the Kings’ half of the fifth inning, followed by a single by Mickey Lapinski. Colby Hanchey knocked a double to score one more run, and Trevor Sayer closed out the game with a double that put two runs across home plate and gave the Kings the 12-1 mercy rule win.
Kayhi posted 12 hits in the win, which include two-hit combinations from Colby Hanchey, Williams, Loughman and Zach Hanchey, each of whom got a double and a single. Sayer got one double; and Lapinski, Klinger and Hanis each hit a single.
Hanis pitched the full game for the Kings, and gave up no Lathrop hits in the contest while striking out six batters and walking three.
Kayhi Kings 15 Lathrop Malamutes 5
This looked to be a short game after the Kings leaped out to a 9-0 lead in the first inning, but the Malamutes pulled together enough runs to keep the game going through the end of the fifth inning.
The Malumutes pestered Kayhi starting pitcher Jesse Loughman in the top of the third, getting a leadoff single from Isaac Kim that opened the door to a two-run inning for the visiting team.
The Kings came back with a run in the bottom of the third inning to make the score 10-2 before Lathrop plated two more runs in the top of the fourth inning. Kayhi added four more runs in reply in their half of the frame.
Zach Hanchey, pitching in relief for Kayhi in the fifth inning, struck out two Lathrop batters. But Malamute singles by Jeremiah Forquer and Connor Bihang set the stage for an Isaac Kim hit that scored one runner before Kayi caught a baserunner in a pickle between second and third bases for the final out.
Up 14-5, Kayhi loaded the bases with a hit batter, a single and a walk before Dylan Nedzwecky got the hit that made the score 15-5 and triggered the game-ending mercy rule.
After the game, Pulsifer was upbeat.
“We’re a young team — we only have two seniors. We only have two juniors or three juniors and the rest are sophomores or freshman,” he said “But they're coming together and we got the chance to play. We got to play two games. We got 10-runned, both games. So, well, you know.”
He noted that Lathrop rotated its pitchers in the first game to get them some experience, pitching the minimum amount so that they can pitch again during this series.
“ So we knew that was gonna be a rough game,” Pulsifer said. “This game, we tried to play normal. We pitched our first pitcher. He pitched all the way to his limit. And then we brought in a reserve pitcher that we didn't pitch in the first game. Other than the disastrous first inning, it was not too bad. Actually. We, we actually played the game and we hit some balls and got some runs, so good. So great experience. The kids are happy. I’m happy.”
Kayhi head coach Andy Berntson, too, was pleased with what he saw from the Kings in Friday’s games.
“Chase (Hanis) came in through with a good game; Jesse (Loughman) did the same thing in the second one, and you know, every weekend you hope to see improvement, right?” he said. “Some of these guys are ... taking good at bats, they're hitting the ball hard, you know, they’re on the bases, as well.
Berntson noted some defensive lapses in the second game, with some players in positions that they’re not necessarily familiar with.
“But it's a learning experience,” he said. “It's not an excuse, you know, we use these weekends ‚especially these non-conference games, just like these (Lathrop) guys are doing, to get reps and prepare for your conference games in your regular season.
“And so moving guys around, still trying to figure out, you know, what's gonna work best for you in the conference games,” he said. “That, and just getting reps at home in front of fans who just haven't seen much baseball. So it's a win-win, I think, for everybody.”
The Kings and Malamutes are scheduled to square off again at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday at Walker Field.
Which sounds good to Pulsifer.
“We're having a blast — we're gonna play two games again tomorrow,” he said, having previously noting the Ketchikan team and community’s hospitality.
‘Oh my goodness. And so we got two practices in. They were so accommodating,” he said. “They've helped us out. We're staying at the (Kayhi) aux gym. They've given us vans. They fed us in between games. It's just been a blessing of a trip. The kids are excited to be here.”
—Compiled by Daily News Staff Writer Scott Bowlen