The city of Fairbanks has been treated to some triumphant returns in recent months.

State tournament basketball, the Ice Dogs, full seasons and state tournaments for track, baseball, softball, soccer, and wrestling, all of them have made their return after Covid-19 took them away last year.

As of today, you can add collegiate Summer baseball to that list.

The Alaska Goldpanners make their triumphant return to Fairbanks today after two years since they last stepped foot in Growden Park. While their season has been underway since last week, Thursday marks the first home game of the year and the first home game since the Summer of 2019.

The Panners are off to a strong start this season, sitting at 3-2 with two wins over the Kenai Peninsula Oilers and one over the Seattle Studs in their first two road series’ of the season. This week, the Goldpanners will host OC Riptide beginning today at 6:30 p.m. They’ll host the Riptide again on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. before hosting a four-team tournament Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Outfielder Noah Turley has been the story of the season thus far. In five games, Turley is batting .500 with five home runs and 11 RBI’s, all of which rank first on the team. Turley is a JUCO product heading to the University of Arizona this fall. Outfielder Grady Morgan isn’t too far behind Turley, however. The Butte College product is currently batting .438 with five RBI’s, one double, and one triple. Those last two rank first on the team.

While the pitching has been somewhat erratic so far, there have still been some standout performers. In six innings of work, Buddie Pindel has given up just five hits and zero runs while striking out nine batters, which ties for first on the team. Pindel’s nine K’s are tied with Christopher Tonna, who’s struck out nine in 6.1 innings while giving up six hits and two runs. Sam Brady has yet to give up a run in 4.1 innings of work while German Fajardo and Ian Torpey have yet to give up a hit in 3.1 and two innings of work, respectively.

The Panners are coached by Butte College head coach Anthony Ferro.

More than the players, the stats, where anyone came from, or how anyone is doing, there’s the fact that after a year that was so tremendously difficult for everyone, Summer collegiate baseball is finally back. From now until August, the Goldpanners will be representing Fairbanks on the diamond once more. To top it off, from now until June 25th, every Panner game will be right here at Growden. All games from July 13-31 will be at Growden as well, so there’s plenty of opportunity for fans longing for the crack of the bat to get in on the action.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Goldpanners website or at the ticket booth at game time.

Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.