Jakob Arnold fired a one-hitter and the Bears scratched across enough runs to hand Wasilla its first loss of the year, 4-2, in a Southcentral Conference baseball game Thursday evening at Baranof Field.
“This is a good win,” Kodiak coach James Arnold said. “I think it will pay off next week more than it will this weekend. Yes, we got the No. 1 seed locked up, but it was good for their confidence moving forward and I’m sure we will see these guys again next week.”
Wasilla, the North Division leaders, had reeled off 10 straight wins to begin the season. South Division champion Kodiak improved to 8-1 in the conference, 11-7 overall and has one more conference game left against Colony before the conference tournament on May 29 in Soldotna.
“We just think of it as a challenge and we are the team to beat now,” said Sam Kirchenschlager, who scored two runs. “It was a good game on their part. We both played great.”
Jakob Arnold settled down after laboring through a first inning where he walked two and threw 25 pitches.
The right-hander pitched all seven innings and allowed only one hit — a sixth-inning single by Tyler Hansen — on 94 pitches. He threw less than 10 pitches in four of the seven frames, which included a six-pitch fourth inning and an eight-pitch seventh that closed the door on Wasilla.
“Those short innings are awesome,” catcher Josiah Chya said. “It gets our confidence up and helps our batting. I think we got more runs scored after those short innings. It kept us in the groove.”
James Arnold was glad to see his pitcher find his rhythm after the first inning. Jakob Arnold retired Wasilla in order in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh in a game that lasted less than two hours.
“That is what we are looking for out of a veteran pitcher on the mound,” James Arnold said. “It all came together for him today. He has had some other good outings, but this was probably one of his better outings.”
Jakob Arnold used a changeup throughout the game, which resulted in 10 ground-ball outs — two of them first-inning comebackers to the mound that ended a Wasilla threat after Arnold walked two.
“I really liked where his fastball was at and we have been working on his breaking ball. We just kept them off balance,” James Arnold said.
Kodiak’s offense finally broke through against the left-hander Hansen, who hadn’t allowed an earned run this season, in the fourth inning.
Kirchenschlager led off with a double to the gap in right field. Tyler Jester followed with a grounder to the shortstop, whose throw pulled the first baseman off the bag and enabled Kirchenschlager to reach third.
Aaron Polasky then dropped a safety squeeze bunt back to the pitcher that scored Kirchenschlager for the game’s first run.
“I’m just looking for a nice bunt, not too close to the pitcher in the gap, and wait till it starts going down and then you just take off as hard as you can,” Kirchenschlager said.
Kodiak went back to work in the fifth, scoring three runs to jump ahead 4-0.
Joey Mauer lined a double to right to lead off the inning and moved to third on a Myles Wilson sacrifice bunt.
Austin Frick followed with a hard single to left that plated Mauer for the second run of the game.
After a Kirchenschlager walk, Frick scored the third run when Wasilla catcher Jefferey Forster threw the ball into right field attempting to pick off Kirchenschlager at first.
Kirchenschlager motored around to third on the play and scored Kodiak’s final run on a first and third double steal.
Wasilla loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and plated a pair of runs to cut the score in half, but that was all the Warriors would get on the night.
Kodiak returns to action today with a 1 p.m. nonconference game against Wasilla and a 5 p.m. conference game against Colony.
The Bears finish the regular season Saturday with a 4 p.m. nonconference game against Colony.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEARS 4, WARRIORS 2
Wasilla 000 002 0 — 2 1 3
Kodiak 000 130 — 4 4 1
T. Hansen, Monaghan (6) and Forster. Arnold and Chya.
RBI: Wasilla — C. Hansen 1. Kodiak — Frick 1, Polasky 1. Double: Kodiak —Kirchenschlager, Mauer.
Winning pitcher — Arnold (Struck out three, walked four). Losing pitcher — T. Hansen (Struck out three, walked four).