For most prep softball teams in the country, winning a state championship can often be that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For Juneau-Douglas, not winning it all again this year would be, in a word, strange.
“It would definitely feel weird,” senior Taylor Larson said. “After losing basketball state this year, I think it would feel better if we win now.”
Managers don’t generally get too ahead of themselves when it comes to predicting the tournament favorites. But with the kind of success the Crimson Bears, the defending state champs, have had over the years, JDHS skipper Dave Massey knows he certainly has one of the top teams in the state.
“I think we have to be one of the favorites,” he said. “There’s going to be some great competition at state, and I’m sure we’ll be one of the teams everyone will be shooting for.”
As the ASAA-sanctioned state softball tournament enters its 16th year of existence, no one has dominated like the Juneau-Douglas program. The Crimson Bears have played in 11 of the 15 state championship games to this point, winning seven.
But winning it all this year is going to take some work, as it always does. Teams don’t make it to this level without being competitive.
“I think there are several teams that are good up there. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t, obviously,” Massey said. “The four teams from the Cook Inlet Conference all look to be strong, and I know Lathrop will be because they beat us earlier (this year).”
The Bears, the No. 1 seed out of the Railbelt Conference with a 17-2-1 overall record, face Cook Inlet No. 4 West Anchorage in the opener of the tournament today at 11 a.m., but Massey said his team has little familiarity with teams from the CIC.
“I know (West has) an outstanding pitcher, so we certainly can’t take them lightly,” he said. “They’re a very good team we haven’t played in a couple of years, so it should be fun.”
If Juneau-Douglas is able to break into the second round with a win over West, Massey said the competition in today’s 3 p.m. game doesn’t get any easier against the winner of East Anchorage and West Valley.
“West Valley was tough when we played them up in Fairbanks, and East is always tough. But other than Lathrop and other league teams, we really don’t get to see the other Anchorage teams,” he said. “We don’t really know what they’re like other than their reputations, and it appears they are some good teams.”
JDHS would not have to face Lathrop or Dimond — the top two seeds in the opposite bracket — until Saturday morning at the earliest.
As for his 14 seniors, this will be the last weekend wearing the crimson and black. Massey said he hopes they’ll make the best of it.
“It should be a fairly well-known drill for them, as long as they don’t get bored,” he quipped. “I don’t think anyone will be bored going to state. It should be pretty fun for them.
“It’s (the seniors’) last chance, and it should be a time they can make some memories for themselves,” he continued. “Hopefully, that’s what they’ll do.”
Larson said the girls intend to make the most of this opportunity and it’s not something they’ll take for granted.
“We’re confident — but not too confident — in where we stand and how we’ll play,” she said. “We just need to stay up and stay positive over the tournament. That will have a big impact on whether we succeed or not.”
The Crimson Bears kick off the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2011 Softball State Championships at 11 a.m. today against West Anchorage at Cartee Fields in Anchorage.
In other first-round action, CIC No. 2 East faces RBC No. 3 West, CIC No. 1 Dimond faces RBC No. 4 Colony, and RBC No. 2 Lathrop faces CIC No. 3 Chugiak.
The winner of the JDHS-West game meets the winner of East-West Valley at 3 p.m. Friday for the right to play in the winner’s bracket semifinals Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
The first championship game is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with the second at 3:30 p.m. if necessary.