Fish Provide Late Excitement In Securing First Alaskan League Home Victory of 2013

Chinooks Never Trail In 5-4 Win vs League Leading Goldpanners On Sunday Night

Game Recap by Lee Jordan

Judging by the reaction of the people on the third-base side of the diamond at tonight’s Alaska Baseball League game at Loretta French Park, one might have thought the Chinooks had won the World Series. It felt that good.

All that actually happened was that the last-place team knocked off the first -place Fairbanks Goldpanners by a score of 5-4. Fairbanks dropped to 10 wins and six losses while the Chinooks rose to 4-17. It had been a long drought for the fish.

The fans sat through three hours of close plays as the weatherman kept changing the conditions from sunshine to rain to wind and back again. The tempera- ture under sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny skies was in the low 60s. It felt like the low 50s, though, when the wind blew the dampness through light outer wear.

Public address system problems that plagued last night’s game continued. Stop-gap measures arranged by Booster Club director Al Clemens restored sound in time for a pre-game ceremony honoring long-time Chugiak residents Cliff and Doro- thy Gilmore. It went off again, but assistance from Chinooks pitcher and electronics guru Hunter Totemeier got things going again, although not quite at the same deci- bel level as in the past. Lost in the process was music from the library of Jackson Beck. PA announcer Dave Stroh covered nicely, filling the gap between innings with chatter ranging from comments on the weather to needling Rep. Bill Stoltze, sponsor of the game and presenter of gifts to the Gilmores.

But enough chit-chat. Let’s get to the game and savor every moment.

Determined to change things, the Chinooks came out swinging in the bot- tom of the first after starting pitcher Asa Johnson got three fly-outs despite giving up a double, leaving the lead-off man standing on second.

Leading off for the home team, Nick Covello drew a walk after running the count full. He was sacrificed to second by Griffin Roark and scored on a double to left center by centerfielder Collin Radack. Radack in turn scored on a sacrifice fly by right-fielder Griffin Gum after stealing third.

The anticipation was slowed in the top of the second when the first two Goldpanner batters struck gold after a combination of a single, a double and another single sandwiched around a ground out and a fly to right. Johnson ended the threat with a strikeout of the number-two hitter in the Fairbanks lineup.

The 2-2 tie was broken up in the bottom of the second when short- stop Stephen Ventimilia, batting in the number-nine spot, singled, was moved to second, stole third and scored on a Radack double. Leadoff man Covello, who had singled to get Ventimilia 90 feet farther along, also scored on the Radack hit.

Although the rain shower came down in earnest to start the third, Johnson faced only three batters, sending them all back to the bench. The first batter was retired on a grounder to Ryan Shackelford at first, the second Panner to the plate was given a full-count free pass only to be gunned down by catcher Zach Harbison a couple of pitches into a 12 pitch at-bat for Fair- banks first-sacker Nolan Meadows. The long-hanging inning ended with Meadows flying out to Jake Murray in left.

Johnson sailed along in great shape through three more innings, mix- ing his pitches well and effectively using a soft curve in both the fifth and sixth frames. He was relieved in the top of the seventh by Devin Stanton.

Chinooks fans dug out the antacids in the top of the eighth when with two out and two Panners on base, a hard shot to third got through the legs of Shackelford. Gum’s throw to the plate from deep in right was a little up- stream and the toss back to the pitcher was not in time to nail the trailing run- ner. Unfazed and doubly determined, Stanton struck out the next batter on three straight pitches.

Leading off in the bottom of the eighth, Gum drew a walk after working into a full count, was sacrificed to second by Murphy, could not ad- vance on a ground out to second, but motored home on a shot into right field by Ventimilia.

The first Fairbanks batter of the top of the ninth singled and stole second safely, but Stanton came through splendidly. He got the next batter with three straight curves, got the next Panner to fly out to second and the fourth batter of the inning flew out to center after driving his second pitch to Radack. Game over. Chinooks won.

Stanton was mobbed when he headed back to the dugout as the entire team erupted from the enclosure to celebrate their fourth league win. Overall they have seven, but three of those count for naught in the standings.

Fairbanks used five pitchers in eight innings. Stanton picked up the win after Johnson’s masterful pitching left him with no decision.

The Goldpanners out-hit the Chinooks, but as the Chugiak-Eagle River nine had found out so many times this season, it’s the number of runs that come across the plate that counts.

Tomorrow night’s game is sponsored by Jitters and starts at 7 p.m.

The Chinooks go on the road to Fairbanks starting Tuesday for three games with the Goldpanners, have a day off, visit the Miners for two days, have another day off, then return home.

Their next home game after tomorrow will be July 16 at 6 p.m.

Cover Photo by Al Clemens