What a day for the Juneau-Douglas baseball team.
Three games, three comebacks, three wins, the last of which will go down as one of the school’s all-time greatest.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh of a tie game with senior courtesy runner McLean Cannon representing the winning run on third, Brendan Daugherty hit a routine ground ball right at the shortstop. But with the ball bouncing slowly on the ground and Daugherty hustling toward first, Sitka’s Luke Clayton — who was unable to make a play at second with nobody covering the bag — was forced to make a quick throw in an attempt to get the runner at first.
But the throw sailed wide and just like that, Cannon crossed home plate to win the Region V Baseball Tournament 11-10 as his teammates mobbed him in the right-handed batters’ box at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
“My mindset was just don’t make the third out at home. I’m out there just trying not to make mistakes, but I know I’m giving my coach heart attacks out there,” Cannon said. “I typically go out there with the mindset that there’s 50,000 people watching and they’ll all be angry if I make a mistake.
“But I took a look around and saw there wasn’t even close to that amount of people,” he quipped. “At that point, I was able to relax.”
But the mindset changed as soon as he found himself at the bottom of a Juneau-Douglas dog pile.
“Justin Brooks is a big guy. I just didn’t want to get squashed, you know?,” he said.
But the fireworks actually began earlier in the inning for the Bears. Trailing 10-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Juneau-Douglas came out ready to rake.
James San Miguel led off with a single up the middle for his fourth hit in as many appearances, and clean-up hitter Ryan Kelly smoked a double to the fence in left, sending San Miguel to third.
Then, bombs away.
Miles Bedford turned on an inside pitch with nobody out and crushed it over the left-field fence for a three-run homer to bring the Bears within one run. Alex Campbell flew out to right in the next at-bat, but then it was Damon Ludwig’s turn.
Ludwig, known as “Big Dog” to his teammates, had already slugged two homers, one in each of the first two games on Saturday.
But it was his third that rang the loudest.
With one out and nobody on, Juneau-Douglas’ designated hitter destroyed the ball, sending it deep into the trees past the right-field fence to tie the game as he flipped the bat and took the tour with his teammates ready and waiting at the plate.
“That was the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Ludwig said. “We were hitting (Sitka pitcher) Cole (Venneberg) well all night, so we just had to come through with a couple of hits.
“We are extremely confident heading into state, and we hope to come away with a championship.”
The game was back and forth the entire night, but that didn’t phase the Bears after they had already posted two comeback wins that day against Ketchikan and Sitka.
Sitka’s V.J. Carlos led off the seventh inning with a solo blast to put the Wolves out in front 7-6. Michael Matz and Jacob Licari each got on base before Venneberg launched one over the fence in center to put the Wolves up 10-6 before the Bears’ epic comeback.
“When we were in Sitka, we came back from a three-run deficit to tie it up, so we knew we could do it. We just needed to execute,” Kelly said. “I think it proves we can do anything we put our minds to. That’s what it comes down to.
“Hopefully we can win it all,” he continued. “It’s a big priority for our team to send the seniors out like that.”
In the fourth inning, Tal Norvel came up with a one-out single to score Campbell, and San Miguel punched one up the middle for his third hit of the day, driving in Norvel and Josh Magnuson and putting the Bears ahead 6-3.
San Miguel was once again a huge part of the Juneau-Douglas lineup, driving in four runs on four hits, including a two-run shot in the first to put the Bears up 3-1 early on.
Lance Ibesate led off the game with a solo blast over the fence in left-center before San Miguel drove in Daugherty on the Bears’ second homer of the inning. Daugherty singled in the previous at-bat.
But Sitka answered back in the top of the fifth. Trailing 6-3, the Wolves pushed across two more runs on the strength of a Devan Romine, one-out double to make the score 6-5. Juneau-Douglas pitcher Josh Magnuson struck out Jacob Licari and forced Mik Potrzuski to ground into a 6-3 double play, stranding two runners in scoring position.
Both teams are now off to the state tournament, which begins Thursday at Hermon Brothers Field at Colony High School in Palmer.
Bears score 6 runs in two innings to stay alive
Juneau-Douglas stayed alive in the Region V Baseball Tournament with an 8-7 win over Sitka on Saturday in Game 8 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, rallying with six runs in the final two innings.
The Crimson Bears then held on for dear life as Sitka’s last-ditch effort in the bottom of the seventh to retake the lead came up short.
By about a foot, maybe two.
After pulling within a run on a two-run bomb deep over the fence in right by Damon Ludwig to make it a one-run ball game in the top of the sixth, JDHS pulled ahead with a four-run seventh.
Brendan Daugherty drew a leadoff walk and went to second after James San Miguel was hit by a pitch to start the seventh for JDHS. Ryan Kelly laid a perfect bunt down the third baseline to load the bases, setting the table for Miles Bedford, who delivered with a two-run single to push the Bears ahead 6-5.
Alex Campbell then plated Kelly with a bunt as the Bears executed a picture-perfect suicide squeeze for an insurance run, which later came in handy.
Ludwig was walked intentionally, and an RBI double by Tal Norvell plated another insurance run to give the Bears an 8-5 advantage heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Sitka then loaded the bases with just one out. After scoring twice and down to their last out with runners on the corners, down by one, Nels Svenson hit a deep fly ball to left, but Alex Campbell was there to make the catch just inside the fence, saving the day once again for Juneau-Douglas, which had already rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Ketchikan in the day’s opener.
Kelly went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, and Ludwig had a homer, two RBIs and two walks to lead the Bears.
Lance Ibesate picked up the win, pitching a complete game and giving up seven runs on 12 hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
Devin Romine was 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored for Sitka.
Bears rally from five down to beat Kings
The Juneau-Douglas baseball team needed to win three games on Saturday to repeat as Region V champions, and the Crimson Bears started off on the right foot.
JDHS came back to defeat Ketchikan 19-9 in the morning game Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park to stay alive in their hunt for the Region V title.
But it didn’t start out well for the home team. Ketchikan senior Chas Allen hit a grand slam off James San Miguel in the bottom of the first, and the Kings tacked on another run to go up 5-0 after one.
Allen seemed in control, putting just two Bears on base through the first two innings. But just as things looked bleak, the Juneau-Douglas bats caught fire.
The Bears scored six runs in the third inning, highlighted by a three-run shot by Damon Ludwig, to give Juneau-Douglas a 6-5 lead.
The Kings’ Nik Silva scored in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game, but the Bears’ offense was just getting started.
Juneau-Douglas scored three more in the fourth and plated 10 in the fifth to put the game out of reach.
Lance Ibesate and Miles Bedford reached base four times in the game, and Bedford and senior Alex Campbell each drove in four runs to lead the JDHS offense.
Juneau-Douglas allowed one run in the bottom of the fifth, but the Kings would not score again as the Bears mercy-ruled Ketchikan.
Friday: Licari wins pitcher’s duel with Bedford
Sitka pulled out a 2-1 win in perhaps the best game of the Region V Baseball Tournament on Friday, a superb pitcher’s duel between the Wolves’ Jacob Licari and the Crimson Bears’ Miles Bedford.
Licari struck out three, walked none and gave up seven hits, pitching the complete game for the win and getting a solid defensive performance behind him. He also scored the Wolves first run with a solo homer to straightway centerfield in the second inning.
Bedford gave up two runs, one earned, scattering eight hits and striking out 10 with two walks. Turns out, the one bad pitch he threw was costly as Licari planted it over the fence in center.
Sitka’s second run, which was unearned, came in the third. Luke Clayton reached on an error on Ryan Kelly at first base, and then scored on a double to right-center by Michael Matz.
JDHS had two great opportunities to tie or take the lead in the fifth and seventh innings. In the fifth, Lance Ibesate singled but was gunned down trying to steal second base for the second out, which proved costly after Justin Brooks and James San Miguel each singled. With two outs, clean-up hitter Ryan Kelly stepped to the plate and battled Licari to a full count, just missing on several pitches, fouling them off, before eventually striking out.
Licari threw 21 pitches in the inning, 12 to Kelly in a great battle.
Tal Norvel reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the seventh and went to second on a throwing error as the Bears made a last-ditch effort to rally for the win. Lance Ibesate moved him to third with a single, but Norvel was out at the plate after Josh Magnuson grounded to third. James San Miguel was hit by a pitch to load the bases, giving Kelly one more shot with two outs, but he flew out to center to end the game.
Ibesate finished 3-for-4 with three singles, Kelly had two doubles and Campell had the Bears’ lone RBI on a double.
Licari got the win, helping his cause with a solo homer and a single, and Matz doubled twice for the Wolves. All-Tournament Team
• Lance Ibesate, JDHS
• Chas Allen, Ketchikan
• Miles Bedford, JDHS
• James San Miguel, JDHS
• Ryan Kelly, JDHS
• Luke Clayton, Sitka
• Cole Venneberg, Sitka
• Devan Romine, Sitka
• V.J. Carlos, Sitka
• Jesse Lindgren, Ketchikan
• Taylor Pullar, Petersburg
• Xavier Dunn, TMHS