Juneau-Douglas opens the first round of the state baseball tournament at Palmer’s Hermon Brothers Field today against South Anchorage, and manager Sheldon Winters isn’t taking any chances.
Senior ace Miles Bedford, a hard-throwing left-hander, will take the hill as the Crimson Bears, the No. 1 seed from the Southeast Conference, face the only in-state team to beat them during the regular season, the Cook Inlet’s second-seeded Wolverines.
The first pitch is at 4 p.m.
“They had the best record in their conference before losing to Dimond, who everyone probably agrees is the toughest team on paper, in their (conference) playoffs,” Winters said. “South beat Dimond during the regular season, and they beat us. They have a really tough pitcher (Josh Crapps), and he did a really good job against us. Then the next game, we came back and beat them.
“It was early in the season and a lot has changed since then. We’re putting our ace on the mound and we’re going to go after them.”
Other first-round matchups of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2011 State Baseball Championships include Kodiak and Lathrop at 10 a.m., and the bottom of the bracket has Southeast’s Sitka taking on Dimond at 7 p.m., and West Valley versus Soldotna at 1 p.m.
Bedford said the Bears’ confidence is riding high after one of the most dramatic weekends in Southeast prep baseball history. After dropping a 2-1 decision in a superb pitchers’ duel against Sitka on Friday, JDHS had to win three straight games on Saturday to win the Region V championship.
The Bears had to rally for wins in each of the three games, including a walk-off score by McLean Cannon on a Wolves error in the bottom of the seventh inning of the final matchup.
“It’s going to be interesting. With South, we’ve already shown that we can beat them. We struggled a little bit in that first game, but the end of the season is totally different,” Bedford said. “We’ve shown that we can come back from anything, and we’ve shown what kind of team we are.”
Fellow senior James San Miguel said the Bears seem to play their best when everything is on the line.
“We love the drama. We’re a comeback team. We can score runs when we really need to and we have our backs against the wall,” he said. “Every year since I’ve been on varsity, it seems like there are always late-inning heroics by someone. And it might not be the star player on the team. It’s always the unexpected hero that comes through for us.”
Several players return from last year’s state title team, but shortstop Lance Ibesate is only everyday starter back.
Bedford also has state tournament pitching experience, having thrown against Kodiak last year after missing the entire regular season with a broken collarbone.
“The quality of teams are definitely different in the state tournament. They’re at a different level,” Bedford said. “But I think the situation is going to be the same. You just have to perform. We know it’s a mindset thing and I’m really psyched.”
JDHS is up to the challenge of winning three games in three days, Bedford said, but South Anchorage and Game 1 has the Bears’ full attention.
“They’re a solid team. At the beginning of the season when we played them, nobody expected them to be anything more than a Wasilla or teams like that,” he said. “But they came out and played well, and they’ve got a few kids that are really solid players. They’re definitely a team that we don’t want to take lightly, and we have to have our heads fully in the game.”
The winner of JDHS and South meets the winner of Kodiak-Lathrop at 4 p.m. Friday. The state championship game is at 4 p.m. Saturday.