Juneau-Douglas senior pitcher Lance Ibesate dueled Thunder Mountain’s Dylan Johnson in a rain-enhanced battle of capital city hardball action Tuesday night at Adair Kennedy Baseball Field, with the Crimson Bears taking a 10-2 conference win over the Falcons.
Both pitchers took care of their own business in the first inning as the Crimson Bears, who got the visitors nod, batted first with Tod Baseden doubling. The Falcons’ Johnson struck out the next batter and after Ibesate singled to put runners on first and third, Johnson caught Crimson Bears batter Kyle Gould’s line drive and Brenden Winters ground ball to end the threat.
Ibesate then struck out the Falcons’ Chris Luck, caught RJ Markovich’s pop up and then put down Gus Swanton.
In the second, freshman Nathan Klein hit a sharp groundball that overpowered Falcons shortstop Ben Bullock, who managed to make the put-out throw from his knees for a play at first base and when the Crimson Bears flied out the next hitter it appeared the inning was safe. JDHS’ Tal Norvell, however, singled and stole second and then scored on a Baseden single for a 1-0 Crimson Bears lead. Jackson Lehnhart was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second but again Bullock picked up a hard grounder to end the inning.
In the Falcons’ second Jackson Pavitt reached on a tricky hop grounder at first base Patrick Millay was hit by a pitch and then both runners advanced on a passed ball. Pavitt then scored on another errant pitch to tie the game at 1-1. Ibesate then calmed to strike out a batter. A missed bunt on the next hitter was another strike out and Millay was caught in the ensuing squeeze play on a run down between third and home.
The third was scoreless for both teams. Johnson forced a fly out, a soft hit the catcher handled and then a strikeout. Ibesate gave up a single the Falcons’ Martin Conchas-Michel, worked a sacrifice bunt, and then a line drive to second base doubled Martin off for the inning.
JDHS scored another run in the fourth. After Norvel lost the ball race to first on a bunt, Baseden singled, moved to second on a Lehnhart single and scored on an Ibesate single. The Falcons threatened in their half as RJ Markovich drew a walk. Ibesate then struck out a batter but Jackson Pavitt hit a blind ball that found a hole just over the infield to put runners on first and third. Ibesate than struck out another Falcons hitter and forced the third out on a weak ground ball.
The fifth inning appeared to be over early for the Crimson Bears with two ground outs until an 0-2 fastball got too cute near Tanner Petrie’s bat and he ripped it deep over the left field fence for a 3-1 lead. Norvell then singled, moved to third on a Baseden double and scored on a Lehnhart single to make it 4-1. The Falcons fifth went quietly as the rain thickened.
Johnson’s night was done after five innings and JDHS would score three more runs in the sixth and three in the seventh. The Falcons got a final run in their half of the sixth on a Gus Swanton single. Swanton stole second and moved to third on an errant throw and then scored on a Pavitt sacrifice.
“We are a young team but we are improving every day,” Falcons co-coach Matt Greely said. “That really is our ultimate goal, to improve every day. JDHS is a good team, but we let a few things get to us that were not in our control. I thought we did a good job of battling back early and we had a lot of situations were we put runners on base and in scoring position and just were not able to capitalize on them tonight. That is frustrating but that is a big step for us from where we were last season, we are getting those opportunities. That is what good teams do... and great teams capitalize on them. We have a lot more aggressive mind set, which is really refreshing, not only for baseball but for Thunder Mountain High School in general. Looking at pressure situations as opportunities to succeed and not as chances to fail.”
The final score was closer than the 10-2 that flickered off at the final out as the improved Falcons were tough early but faded late to the polished Crimson Bears.