Johnny Milner could not have been more proud of his group of Amercian Legion ballplayers on Saturday.
Following Friday’s lopsided 14-3 loss in the series opener to Eagle River, Ketchikan Post 3 regrouped — not even 24 hours later — and pitched a pair of gems in Saturday’s doubleheader.
Combined with timely hitting, and some webgems in the field to match the pitching performances, Ketchikan responded by splitting Saturday’s twin bill with Eagle River.
Thanks in large part to Ketchikan starting pitcher Hayden McGarrigan, Post 3 won the first game 1-0.
McGarrigan tossed a complete game shutout — and also drove in the game’s only run.
Eagle River won the second game 3-2 in walk-off fashion, despite the job of Ketchikan starting pitcher Isaac Romano.
After allowing a run in the first inning of the second game, Romano settled into a rhythm, pitching out of several jams, and gave Ketchikan a fighting chance to sweep the day’s set of conference games.
The ‘no quit’ attitude even carried over into Sunday’s series finale — a non-conference game — but Ketchikan fell 7-4.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Milner said after Saturday’s doubleheader. “... Like I’ve been saying all along, pitching and defense, I think we match up with anybody.”
That certainly was the case this weekend, as Post 3 finished its home portion of the season. Ketchikan will travel to Anchorage on Tuesday, and play five games in four days — from Wednesday to Saturday — to close out the regular season.
“Hayden pitched a gem, and defensively, they did what they needed to do. They made plays behind him,” Milner said. “Game 2, you have to tip your hat to their guy. He pitched a great game. It was a great pitcher’s duel — and it (was), who was home team gets that game.”
Eagle River was considered the home team in Saturday’s second game, as the two teams each had a turn hitting in the bottom half in the two conference games.
McGarrigan needed just 87 pitches to record 21 outs in the seven-inning game. He allowed just three hits.
“His command was good,” Ketchikan catcher Dylan Nedzwecky said of his battery mate. “Anywhere I put the glove, he was hitting it. His offspeed was great, (and) kept them guessing.
“He usually does (that) anyway,” he continued. “This is what he usually does every game. It’s kind of a normal thing for him. Especially with a gimp ankle, he still went out there and threw the ball.”
In the game’s bottom of the fourth inning, McGarrigan hit a ground ball to Eagle River shortstop Noah Lower, and raced to first base, trying to beat the throw.
Lower’s throw sailed wide of Eagle River first baseman Orazio Ramos, allowing Post 3’s Bubba Williams to easily score from third base, and McGarrigan was safe at first.
McGarrigan stepped on Ramos’ foot as he crossed the bag.
“My arm’s feeling great,” McGarrigan said after the 1-0 win. “It’s my ankle.
“I was trying to beat out (the throw), and when (it) went passed, I just kind of took a sharp turn to go to second (base), and I stepped on the first baseman’s foot and twisted my ankle bad,” he continued. “I only had to go two innings with it though. ... (It was) my landing foot. It hurt, but I did fine.”
He did just fine, indeed, retiring one Eagle River hitter after another.
“When Hayden’s pitching, and I’m behind the plate, I just know I’m going to get a good game,” Nedzwecky said. “I’m not going to get too much (that’s) wild. Too much in the dirt; too much up high. I know it’s going to be smooth, no matter what.
“It’s good having that, knowing that going in. It makes us — even the whole team — confident,” he continued. “Because the whole team knows he’s going to come out and throw strikes.”
Williams scored the game’s only run on that errant throw by Lower. Williams was a courtesy runner for Jesse Loughman. Loughman had ripped a one-out double down the right field line, before being lifted for Williams on the base paths.
Williams advanced to third base on a wild pitch before scoring on McGarrgian’s ground ball.
Ketchikan’s Terik Brown knocked a pair of timely hits in Saturday’s second game.
Eagle River jumped in front, 1-0, in the bottom of the first inning. But Romano was able to settle into a rhythm, and limit the damage, leaving the bases loaded.
Romano wiggled his way out of several jams in Saturday’s second game.
“Isaac pitched out of a couple jams,” Milner said. “They scored one in the first. So we were down each time, and we answered. We tied it 1-1, and then we were down 2-1. Both times, Terik had a couple clutch hits to get those two runs.
“And defensively, we didn’t let up,” he continued. “They just executed at the end there.”
Romano pitched into the seventh inning, before he was relieved by Caleb Eisenhower.
After a sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk, Eagle River’s Stephon Retzlaf hit a first-pitch laser down the third base line with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving Eagle River its 3-2 walk-off win.
“They’re a good ball club,” Milner said. “They’re scrappy. They play smart.”
Brown comes in clutch
Ketchikan’s center fielder, and team leader, had a pair of clutch hits, himself, during Saturday’s second game.
Down 1-0, Brown knocked in Van McGarrigan — Hayden’s brother — with a base hit to left field in the top of the fourth inning.
The 1-1 tie lasted only briefly, as Eagle River edged ahead, 2-1, in the bottom of the frame.
Brown tied it again, 2-2, driving in Van McGarrigan once more, just two innings later. Van McGarrigan had reached base on a fielder’s choice, after beating out a double play ball.
Brown finished the day’s second game 2-for-2, with two RBIs.
He also scored a run in Sunday’s 7-4 loss, and stole two bases and scored a run in Friday’s 14-3 loss.
“(He comes from a) baseball family,” Milner said. “He knows the game very well. He’s an absolute terror on the base paths.
“He’s a gamer,” Milner continued. “And even in the games where the kids maybe aren’t as serious, it’s not Terik. I mean, Terik is the one gamer who’s in, no matter what. Even when I pull him out in some of those non-league games, he’s still pretty enthusiastic.”
Ketchikan fell behind 1-0 in the first inning on Sunday, before jumping ahead, 2-1, in the bottom of the third.
Eagle River plated four in the top of the fourth, en route to its 7-4 win over Ketchikan.
Romano was 2-for-3 in the game, and Eisenhower had a pair of RBIs.
Williams, Brown, Romano and Colby Hanchey all scored runs for Post 3 in the game.