Story last updated at 1:14 p.m. Thursday, June 6, 2002

Championship eludes Mariners on diamond
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

A remarkable run for the Homer High School baseball team came to an end at the State Baseball Championships in Palmer as the Mariners lost 9-1 to Lathrop in last Friday's first-round game.

Despite the final score, the Mariners were within striking distance until the Malemutes scored five insurance runs in the seventh inning.

In the fifth, with the score 4-0, the Mariners had the makings of a rally when Tom Crandall apparently scored after Neil Kuipers' single. A wild throw had the Mariners in business with Kuipers at second and Jim Pollack standing on third with one out. But following a Lathrop appeal to the home-plate umpire, Crandall was called out for missing the plate.

"That just seemed to demoralize the team," Mariner coach Lary Kuhns said.

The misstep was made even more painful when Kiamana Chow singled to bring in Pollack for what turned out to be the Mariners' lone run. After three hits, a walk and an error, the Mariners left the bases loaded to end the inning.

"You can't take anything away from Lathrop. They hit the ball very well," Kuhns said of the Malemutes' 11-hit attack. "But we just had one of those games where mental mistakes hurt us."

Lathrop pitcher Kinsey Reeves kept the Homer batters off balance most of the game, allowing just four Mariner hits in seven innings. Crandall, who got two of those hits as well as a pair of steals, was named player of the game for the Mariners.

Lathrop lost 9-3 to Juneau-Douglas in the championship game.

The Mariners, despite a pitching gem from David Drake, fell 2-1 to East in an extremely tight third-place game.

East broke up Drake's no-hitter in the fourth, touching him for two runs in the inning. Drake gave up just three hits and struck out nine, pitching a complete game. He earned player-of-the-game and all-tournament honors.

"He pitched the game of his life," Kuhns said.

East pitcher Anton Maxwell held Homer hitless and faced the minimum number of batters until two were out in the seventh. Ben Kuhns broke up the no-hit bid with an infield single and latter scored. Maxwell nailed down the win by fanning Pollack, leaving the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first.

Homer won the academic award with a 3.28 grade-point average.

Despite a rough introduction to the State tournament, Lary Kuhns vowed that Homer would continue to be a strong presence in Alaska high school baseball.

"We've smelled a championship and we want it more than anything," Kuhns said.