VOCAL EXERCISES - Artist in the Schools instructor Sarah Branton of Cherry Creek, Colorado, leads an exercise in the Sitka High School band room this morning as she teaches students how to improve their volume. Branton will be here all week working with choirs at Blatchley Middle School and Sitka High. Her instruction is part of the effort to rebuild school  choir programs and numbers following the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Grand Slam Propels Sitka to Region V Title


Sentinel Sports Editor

Undeterred by foul weather and a muddy playing field, Sitka High’s baseball squad secured the Region V championship Saturday after three wins and no losses in the tournament at Juneau.

The Wolves led off with an 8-5 win against Ketchikan Thursday, and followed that up Friday by defeating the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 9-2.

Sitka’s baseball team poses with their trophy after winning the Region V title by defeating Ketchikan, Saturday in Juneau. Behind them, the baseball diamond is a morass of mud. In the back row from the left are Ben Turner, Trey Johnson, Levi Hodges, Grady Smith, Mason McLeod, Dylan Marx, Bryce Calhoun, Sam Johnson, Emmit Johnson and Keaton Blankenship. In the front from the left are Tyson Bartolaba, Caleb Calhoun, Tanner Steinson, Brett Ross, Chance Coleman, Bridger Bird and Kayden Wathen. (Photo provided by Ken Carley)

Saturday’s championship game was a close match until a grand slam by sophomore Tanner Steinson shifted the game’s dynamics, Sitka rallied to overcome a deficit and beat the Kayhi Kings 13-7 in a rematch.

When Steinson stepped up to bat in the championship game, Kayhi was ahead by 2 runs. But the bases were loaded and he knew he had a chance to score.

“My coach comes up to me and tells me to just hit the ball… I just went out there looking to hit the ball, get people in, and I just ended up hitting it out,” Steinson said on Monday. He stood for a moment watching the ball. “Once I saw it hit the trees, I finally started going,” he said.

The ball sailed over the left field fence, giving Sitka 4 runs and a two-run lead that set the tone for the remainder of the game. 

Sitka’s Dylan Marx runs home as the dugout cheers him on after an in-the-park home run earlier in the season at Moller Field. (Sentinel photo by James Poulson)

While the game began as a back-and-forth contest, Steinson’s grand slam homer changed the pace, said Sitka coach Ken Carley.

”We got the lead, they got it right back, we’d take the lead again, they got it right back,” the coach remembered. “Then they took quite a big lead and we had the rally when Tanner hit the grand slam. We never looked back after that.”

Sitka’s offense was alive in the whole championship series, but the team’s defense was also solid, with pitchers shutting down opponents game after game.

Leading off in the first game against Kayhi, senior Ben Turner was atop the mound, allowing no hits through the first six innings. He gave credit to his teammates for their part in holding Ketchikan hitless that long. “We just had no errors; we can’t have any errors, because that’s what really kills us,” Turner told the Sentinel at practice Monday.

“We left (Turner) there trying to keep that no-hitter going, coach Carley said. “And finally when someone did finally get a hit, we did pull him. But he was two outs from a no-hitter in high school.”

Grady Smith pitched the second game. He and the rest of Sitka’s field shut down Juneau-Douglas’ offense almost entirely for the 9-2 win.

Smith said that before that game he felt he hadn’t been pitching all that well.

“So when the coaches put me out there in the semi-final game to get us to the championship, it meant a lot. I wanted to perform, and then I ended up having a pretty good game,” he said. In his “pretty good game,” Smith threw nine strikeouts and gave up only three hits.

“All of our pitchers were great this weekend,” Carley said.

Freshman Brett Ross was glad to see his team come together at the right moment to clinch another regional title.

“It feels awesome. The team really came together. The energy picked up and we played the best ball we’ve played all year… Definitely the energy in the dugout. Everybody cheering; that also carried into defense and our pitching. Grady Smith and Ben Turner had amazing games,” Ross said.

The adverse weather placed an extra burden on all involved, but made pitching particularly tough. It’s a Southeast baseball tradition that games are not stopped by rain.

“It’s really tough pitching when it’s just down-pouring like that,” Grady Smith said. “Ben Turner, he really just showed up, didn’t back down.”

“The weather was horrible,” the coach said. “The whole time we were there I think it rained three or four inches between the three days… It was a mud pit; it was windy, so everyone was cold. Pretty much every time they came off the field, we were having to throw a jacket on until they had to go back out.”

The state baseball tournament begins Thursday at Moller Field, where it was last held in 2017. That year, the Wolves overcame South Anchorage High to secure the state title. Carley is eager to see what his team can do on their home turf.  

“No mud,” he said, referring to the man-made surface that makes Moller Park the best baseball field in Southeast. 

“Home field advantage is always huge,” he added, anticipating a big turnout of local fans.

Sitka’s first game will be 7 p.m. Thursday against Service High of Anchorage. If the Wolves win the opener, they’ll play again Friday at 7 p.m., and if they lose, their second game will be 1 p.m. Friday.

Looking forward to the home tournament and capstone of the season, Smith was beyond eager.

“I can’t even put into words how excited I am. It’s going to be so, so fun just to roll out of bed and go watch great baseball, all these high caliber teams in Alaska,” the junior said. “And of course, we’re playing in front of our hometown. So there’s that added pressure to playing.”

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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






September 2003

Sitka Tribe of Alaska is “upset and disturbed” about the Senate appropriations bill that cuts spending for Alaska tribal courts, STA Vice Chairman Gil Truitt said today. He was referring to Sen. Ted Stevens’ move to divert Department of Justice grants from tribal courts and tribal police officers to fund the Village Public Safety Officer program.



September 1973

Photo caption: Receiving service pins at a Carpenters Union Local 466 dinner meeting at the Kiksadi Club were, from left, Arthur Littlefield, Alvin Helm, Harley Finch, Dave Gibson, Gerald Hughes, Fred Nelson, Walter Moy, Edward Nelson, William Sutton and Don Stromme.


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