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Cook Inlet Conference baseball celebrates 25 years with all-decade teams

05/04/2017, 7:45pm AKDT
By Van Williams

What started as an experiment in 1992 is now a sweet science. The Anchorage league has produced some of the biggest names in the game.


East's Trajan Langdon takes batting practice at the Mulcahy Stadium batting cage. Photo credit Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News archive 1994


Max Karnos

From Trajan Landgon to Chad Nading to Max Karnos, the Cook Inlet Conference has produced some of the best high school baseball players from Alaska.

What started as an experiment in 1992 is now a sweet science.

This week, the CIC honored its biggest names over the last 25 years by creating three all-decade teams for the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

East’s Langdon was named Player of the Decade of the 1990s, East’s Nading for the 2000s and South’s Karnos for the 2010s.

Coaches of the Decade winners were Service’s Tim Rumfelt for the 1990s, East’s Tony Wylie and Chugiak’s Bill Lierman for the 2000s and Chugiak’s Doug Henie for the 2010s.

Here’s a breakdown of each decade:

1990s CIC All-Decade Team
SP Trajan Langdon, East
SP Joey Clark, Chugiak
SP Brady Lonergan, Service
SP Tom Sterrett, Chugiak
RP Chris Edge, Dimond
C Ra Shipps, East
1B Tyler Hasbrouck, Service
2B Mischa Sorbo, West
3B Levi Robinson, Service
SS Jon Dyson, East
OF Kelly Hood, Service
OF Orlando Caro, East
OF Aaron Sperbeck, Dimond
DH Kyle Madden, East
UTL Joey Inama, Chugiak
Player of the Decade: Trajan Langdon, East
Coach of the Decade: Tim Rumfelt, Service

1990s Player of the Decade: Trajan Langdon, East
When he wasn’t making history on the basketball court, East’s Trajan Langdon was making plays on the baseball field in the Cook Inlet Conference.

He was the most polished ballplayer of his era – a precise pitcher, marvelous middle infielder and hard-hitting slugger.

The long and lanky 6-foot-3 dual-sport stud was voted CIC MVP in 1994 and was one of only two pitchers named to the all-conference team. In 1993, he was the only shortstop named all-CIC.

“I really enjoyed the challenge of pitching and trying to dominate games when I could,” he said.

Langdon played in an era before The Dome, before FieldTurf – back when Alaska’s winter lingered longer and the seasons were shorter.

“I do remember Opening Day one year being in mid-May and they had to shovel the snow off the field for us to play, and we still played in like 35- to 40-degree weather,” he said. “Crazy stories, yet stories that represent our great state.”

Langdon was drafted professionally in two sports – in 1994 by the MLB’s San Diego Padres in the sixth round and in 1999 by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

He played three seasons in the minors as a third baseman at the Class A level in the summer of 1994, 1995 and 1997 before turning his attention on basketball. He went on to become an All-American at Duke University, a lottery pick in the NBA and All-Decade in the Euroleague.

Langdon made a career in basketball, but his days on the diamond molded his life forever.

“Baseball was a game that I really enjoyed playing,” he said. “I had great teammates and some great coaches and enjoyed every minute of it, and really, baseball helped to develop my competitive spirit.”

1990s Coach of the Decade: Tim Rumfelt, Service
Tim Rumfelt kept his approach simple when he managed the Service Cougars.

Just win, baby.

“We worked them quite hard,” Rumfelt said. “I expected them to play hard, and they did.”

Service was the premier program in the Cook Inlet Conference in the 1990s under Rumfelt, who posted a 45-18 record over six seasons in the decade.

He led the Cougars to back-to-back pennants in 1996 and 1997 and his 1999 team was the first CIC team to win 10 games in a season – back before there was a state tournament.

“In those days, you could go up to Service and ask people, what’s the sport? It was baseball,” Rumfelt said. “Service baseball was it.”

He managed in the original six era when the CIC featured only Bartlett, Chugiak, Dimond, East, Service and West.

He coached some of the biggest names in the 1990s, guys like Brady Lonergan, Tyler Hasbrouck, Levi Robinson and Kelly Hood. But there were other players that gave just as much sweat and sacrifice to help Service dominate the diamond.

“I had tremendous ballplayers in those days,” he said. “That’s not just because of me. There were other people involved too.”

Rumfelt, 70, went on to coach other CIC teams over the years. But his legacy will always be linked to Service.

“He shaped us not just into great teammates and ballplayers, but he also shaped me into the person I am today by showing us consistent effort and not giving up on us,” said 2001 all-league outfielder Charlton Ferreira. “It taught me never to give up, no matter what. He pushed us during conditioning and helped us make us mentally strong and physically strong for the season.”

2000s CIC All-Decade Team
SP Corey Madden, East
SP Brian Montalbo, Dimond
SP Conor Spink, Chugiak
SP Anton Maxwell, East
SP Ben Rosen, Chugiak
C Keegan Kucko, Chugiak
1B Chad Nading, East
2B Cal McKim South
3B Chuck Rider, Service
SS Nick Ridley, Bartlett
OF Antoine McLeod, East
OF Zach Morse, Chugiak
OF Tim McCollum, Chugiak
DH Jake Plancich, East
UTL Ty Griffith, Chugiak
Player of the Decade: Chad Nading, East
Coaches of the Decade: Tony Wylie, East; Bill Lierman, Chugiak

2000s Player of the Decade: Chad Nading, East
In the conversation about the greatest Cook Inlet Conference baseball player of all-time, the discussion has to start, and stop, with East’s Chad Nading.

Armed with a rocket right arm and booming bat, the 6-foot-5 pitcher and first baseman stood tall from 2004 to 2006 as the CIC’s most decorated all-star and only two-time MVP in the league’s 25-year history.

Nading batted .641 over his final two seasons and he pitched winning decisions in more than half of East’s 19 victories. In all, he earned five all-league honors, two batting titles and two MVP titles.

“I think I was so successful in Alaska because Coach Wylie put together a first-class program,” he said. “We would travel to Arizona and Hawaii, where we played very high competition early in the spring that got us early reps before starting CIC. We got all the early mistakes out of the way so once the season started we were ready to go.”

Nading was twice drafted by MLB teams – first in 2006 in the 36th round by Detroit out of high school and then again in 2009 in the 37th round by Texas out of UNLV.

From 2010 to 2016 he bounced around pro leagues and even pitched in Japan. In 2017, he made his MLB spring training debut with San Diego and a month later he picked up his first career save with Double-A San Antonio.

“I have been a part of a lot of great baseball teams and championships, but I can never close the yearbook when it comes to those four years of East High baseball,” Nading said. “Those years taught me to love competition and gave me opportunities to be a leader and relied on in huge situations.”

2000s Coaches of the Decade: Tony Wylie, East; Bill Lierman, Chugiak
When you think of East baseball in the 2000s, you think of Tony Wylie.

He was the architect behind a T-birds team that dominated the Cook Inlet Conference between 2000 and 2006, when they posted 65 victories, won three pennants and captured the inaugural ASAA state tournament championship in 2000.

“I firmly believe that teams take on the personality of their head coach,” Wylie said. “So if a coach is organized and knowledgeable about game preparation and he possesses some degree of gamesmanship with class, then it’s highly likely his players will exude the same classy persona and wins will take care of themselves.”

Coaching baseball wasn’t a job for Wylie. It was his career. He went on to create the Alaska Baseball Academy and currently serves as a MLB scout.

At East, his 2000 squad was the first CIC team to win 12 games in a season. He coached the most decorated player in CIC history in Chad Nading as well as other all-decade selections in Corey Madden, Anton Maxwell, Antoine McLeod and Jake Plancich.

“I was very blessed to have a ton of exceptional athletes coming through East in the late 1990s and 2000s. All I needed to do was place them in situations to be successful and they did all the work.” Wylie said. “I was also smart enough to surround myself with quality assistant coaches who believed in my style of teaching and motivation.”

Bill Lierman was a hard-nosed competitor when he played for Chugiak and he was no different when he became the school’s coach.

Blunt, brainy and bullish, Lierman guided the Mustangs to a decade-best 76 wins from 2000 to 2009 on his way to becoming the Cook Inlet Conference’s all-time leader in coaching victories [95]. Chugiak reached the state championship game in 2004, 2006 and 2009.

“High school baseball changed throughout the 2000s and I think we adapted to certain things,” he said. “We had great players, assistant coaches and parent support.”

Lierman said the key to his success was trust between him and his players and him and their parents.

“When the parents trust you to coach their kids, that’s when you can really mold teams because you don’t have outside influence,” he said.

In 2004, the Mustangs made a worst-to-first type jump by going from 2-8 to 9-1 in the CIC. In 2006, Chugiak became the first CIC team to win 13 games in one season.

Lierman never judged himself by victories, but rather by the life lessons he could teach to prepare his players for winning in life.

“Most people want instant gratification and that instant gratification is built on wins. They think wins and losses are a direct reflection of you as a coach,” he said. “But really, it’s about four or five years down the road, when a player calls you and thanks for you something you said that had nothing to do with wins and losses.”

2010s CIC All-Decade Team
SP Max Karnos, South
SP Zach Ferntheil, Service
SP Dalton Chapman, West
SP Jonny Homza, South
RP Lucas Thorp, Dimond
C Chase Wilson, Chugiak
1B Michael Rosenberg, Eagle River
2B Cory Clevenger, Dimond
3B Tyler Thompson, Dimond
SS Willy Homza, South
OF Matt Illalio, Service
OF Sagan Osborne, Dimond
OF Parker Johnson, South
DH Garrett Brown, Service
UTL Adam Manzer, West
Player of the Decade: Max Karnos, South
Coach of the Decade: Doug Henie, Chugiak

2010s Player of the Decade: Max Karnos, South
South’s Max Karnos was one of the best pitchers in Cook Inlet Conference history with three all-league recognitions from 2011 to 2013 and a MVP award as a senior.

The 6-foot-4 right-hander dominated the 2013 season with a 0.33 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 20 innings. He went 1-1 with his lone loss coming in a game where he had 17 strikeouts.

“Max was tough to hit because he could spot up. He could paint the corners. His changeup and 2-seam were the toughest to hit,” said Service’s Jake Ridley, the 2012 CIC Gold Glove winner. “I had a lot of respect for him.”

Karnos batted .429 with 11 RBIs in 10 games. In South's biggest game of the year, with a state playoff berth at stake, he sparked a 7-5 win over Chugiak by going 2 for 3 with three RBIs.

The Wolverines went on to win state, the team's second title in three years.

“What I remember most were all the late nights at the school and Dome, grinding and getting ready for the season,” Karnos said. “Those were absolutely some of the best years of my life. I have tons of close friends because of those four years and memories I will never forget.”

Karnos went on to pitch at Western Nevada and then Sacramento State, where in 2016 he threw a 3-hit shutout against Utah Valley to become just the second Alaskan to throw a 9-inning complete game at the NCAA D1 level.

“Playing at South prepared me for the rest of my career because I never took anything for granted,” he said. “It also helped that I had big dreams and what I wanted most in the world was to accomplish them.”

2010s Coach of the Decade: Doug Henie, Chugiak
He was around for only three seasons, but Chugiak’s Doug Henie enjoyed one of the most successful and shortest tenures in the Cook Inlet Conference.

Yet his achievements were undeniable.

The Mustangs became the first CIC team in 2015 to win 15 games in a season and they did it again in 2016.

“It really was the players. We just stressed to them, ‘do your job, focus on you, not worry about what other people are doing.’” Henie said. “We kind of took that to heart.”

Henie led Chugiak to the school’s first ASAA state championship in 2015 and a second-place showing in 2016.

He won 36 games – the most so far in the 2010s and two more than Dimond’s Brad Lauwers, who won 34 in four seasons and received strong consideration for coach of the decade.

“I’m no brain child,” Henie cracked. “I tried to keep it simple and fun and keep concentration levels up.”

You could argue Henie did more with less. Chugiak had only one player selected all-decade in Chase Wilson; whereas, for example, Dimond had four guys picked to the team.

“You could say we didn’t have all the big names, but we had a lot of depth and played with a chip on our shoulder,” Henie said.

He preferred to stay in the dugout, behind the scenes. It had been like that since 2004 when he joined the coaching staff. But that all changed after he was promoted to head coach in 2013. It didn’t change him.

“I’m not a real intense guy,” Henie said. “I just tried to keep the guys tuned into the game, especially the bench kids, because if they aren’t into the game it can disrupt the concentration of the players on the field.”

Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent for the Alaska School Activities Association.

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