With a 15-1 dismantling of the Kenai Kardinals on Saturday night, the Juneau-Douglas High School softball team is looking like the state champions from two years ago.
“We had a great trip to the Kenai Peninsula this weekend,” JDHS coach Dave Massey said. “We played the Soldotna Stars on Thursday, drove to Homer Friday to play the Mariners. After returning that night, we played the Kenai Kardinal at noon on Saturday. We also played JV games in Soldotna and Kenai.”
The Crimson Bears toppled small school opponents Homer this Friday 16-5 and Soldotna on Thursday 11-3. Last week they trounced league foe North Pole 6-0 and 12-2, Palmer 8-0 and 18-2, Wasilla 17-2 and 11-0.
“Road trips like this are fun for our team,” Massey said. “Playing three different teams in three different towns. It does present some challenges logistically but it toughens you up for the effort you have to put out at the state tournament.”
The Crimson Bears are young and talented and their road trips are becoming state bound.
With just two seniors, two juniors, nine sophomores and nine freshmen the Crimson Bears have amassed a 17-3 record including 11-1 against Railbelt Conference league opponents.
“Fortunately we have some depth and some girls that can play,” Massey said. “So if we just put them in the right positions on offense and defense we should do ok.”
JDHS’ lone loss in conference was to West Valley by the score of 12-11 last week but the Crimson Bears came back in the double header to beat the Wolfpack 8-4.
JDHS plays in the large school classification in the Railbelt with opponents Lathrop, North Pole, Palmer, West Valley, Colony and Wasilla.
The Crimson Bears have wrapped up first place in the Railbelt with their 11-1 conference record, West Valley is 5-1, North Pole 3-4, Lathrop 3-4, Colony 3-4, Palmer 0-6 and Wasilla 0-6.
The top four teams advance to the state tournament starting June 1 with four more teams from the Cook Inlet Conference (Dimond, Bartlett, West, East, Chugiak, Service, Eagle River and South). The Cook Inlet sends the conference regular season winner and the top three CIC tournament placers.
JDHS has played only one CIC opponent to date, West High School, and lost both games, 8-2 on April 27 and 9-0 on April 28.
Senior pitcher Ashli Kikendall has gained much more control this year and more movement pitches to go along with her speed which has resulted in one no-hitter thrown against the Palmer Moose in that 8-0 drubbing May 10.
Junior Malin Murray is another pitcher that can keep opponents off balance and sophomore Ashley Buck is a younger image of Malin with even more junk. Buck also plays third. Sophomore Gracie Meiners is a tall left-hander who has added both speed and control this year and freshman Savanna Schauwecker throws hard with control. Add sophomore Kayla Balovich, who at times can be as dominant as anyone in the state, and the Crimson Bears have the pitching to advance in the state tourney. Balovich also handles shortstop duties.
The catchers for this group are sophomore Breanne Chapman and freshman Rachelle Roldan, both can play other places when they don’t catch and are proficient hitters.
Kikendall is also one of the best defensive first basemen has broke a couple of bat in the cage this year already. Meiners fills in at first and is a good outfielder.
Sophomore Emma Good has fast hands and a great swing from the leadoff spot and stars in the outfield with sophomore Randi Held and junior Rachel Doogan. Doogan is the steadiest person on the team, has learned the game, gets better and is solid all around in every phase of it.
Murray is also a very good third baseman and hitter with great reactions for both.
Senior Savannah Dindinger-Hill is the player Massey is most proud of.
“She’s not been playing that long,” Massey said. “But she just keeps getting better. She listens and keeps working and improving. She has outfield skills and now has learned the right side of the infield and when she stays in an athletic batting stance, she hits the ball consistently and sharply. I doubt many players would make the decisions she has made just to play softball.”
Sophomore Kaitlin Fagerstrom has athletic talent to burn and freshman Savanna Schauwecker is starting to hit the ball hard and is focusing on learning the outfield. Sophomore Andrea Gordon is one of the Crimson Bears’ best hitters and a very tough out. Schauwecker also holds down second or short depending on who is pitching.
“I am real happy with the overall hitting,” Massey said. “We have a number of girls hitting ropes right now. Seven of our girls have gone yard, which is the first time we have had that much power. We have also had significant progress coming together as a team, and if we keep it up, it could be a very good state tournament for us.”
The Crimson Bears will have senior recognition on Wednesday with games against Sitka and Ketchikan, before traveling to the state tournament May 24-26.