Star Chasers to conclude first season with series in Fairbanks | Local

ERIC NEWMAN Sun Sports Editor

The Flagstaff Star Chasers are making preparations to end their first collegiate summer baseball season with a road trip to play a series against the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks in Fairbanks, Alaska, beginning Tuesday.

The Goldpanners — who will host Flagstaff for five games across six days — will likely be the toughest competition the Star Chasers have faced this season. With summer in the far northeast, games will be played in front of hundreds of fans nightly, and the sun may not set until late after the contests finish. It will be the first true road series Flagstaff plays since June.

After a summer of local games, it will be a new experience for nearly everybody on the Star Chasers roster.

“The most important thing is that we’re able to do it for the guys on our team. We’re able to see Alaska in itself, because it’s like no other state that we have in the country. So I think the guys are really excited,” manager Dave Deutschman said.

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Deutschman has a long-term connection with the Goldpanners. So does general manager Randy Barber.

In 2009, Deutschman was a player on the 50th anniversary team.

That’s where he met Barber, who remembers Deutschman as a “scrappy left-hander.”

Now, as the team wraps up its inaugural campaign, both of the leaders get to recollect a bit on past experiences.

“I’ve kind of talked to the guys about my route, my journey to get from there to here and how cool it is for me to be back there,” Barber said.

The team was formed for the enjoyment of college summer baseball in Flagstaff, but most importantly for the development of its players. There have never been official standings or a playoff chase, making the record — unofficially at 20-6 with a few forfeits thrown in and some seven-inning doubleheaders — a moot point.

Even still, the Star Chasers went on a 16-game win streak through the middle of the season. During that span, they never used the same lineup in consecutive games — both for strategy and to get playing time for the many student-athletes on the roster — but had consistent production from the entire batting order and pitching staff.

The way the season was set up — without having to think about seeding in a tournament or win-loss records — may have been part of why the Star Chasers were so successful.

Deutschman credits it more to effort from everybody in the dugout, regardless of playing time.

“We played phenomenal defense all summer, and putting that aggressiveness into play as hitters — continuing that pattern — and our pitchers putting pitches in the strike zone really made all that happen,” he said.

Now, with just six games left in the season and having played their final home game on Sunday, the Star Chasers leaders have been able to reflect on the team’s first campaign. It will be difficult after a long flight and quick turnaround to play at their best in Alaska, but a solid showing would provide a bright spot at the end of what the staff hopes is a long-term plan of competing in Flagstaff.

“You want the kids to play well, compete, enjoy themselves. Would it be fun to have them win a few games? surah But like a lot of things we’ve done this summer — some right, some wrong — we’re trying to establish something. It’s hard to do,” Barber said. “Three teams in the (Northern Arizona) League didn’t finish the summer. So I think if we can show that we’ve built something that will last and that is competitive, that will be a big deal.”

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