The Juneau-Douglas High School girl’s softball team will begin state tournament play on Friday at 1 p.m. in a double elimination format scheduled through two days at Anchorage’s Cartee Fields.
The Crimson Bears, with an 18 win and 2 loss record, are the number one seed from the Rail Belt Conference and open against Service (7-13), the number four seed from the Cook Inlet Conference.
“I don’t know much about them at all,” JDHS coach Dave Massey said of the Cougars. “They got beat by some teams up north but must have had a good tournament. They are peaking at the right time. We are pretty healthy right now and are in good shape.”
Other first round games include West Anchorage 17-5 (CIC 2) against Lathrop (RBC 3), East Anchorage 22-1 (CIC 1) against Colony 12-8 (RBC 4), and West Valley 16-5 (RBC 2) against Chugiak 11-5 (CIC 3). Winners advance to 5 p.m. games on Friday, losers face elimination games through Friday (3-7 p.m.) evening including final elimination games against the losers of the 5 p.m. quarterfinals.
Play resumes on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with a winner’s semifinal game with the winner advancing to the 1:30 p.m. championship and the loser playing the winner of the 9:30 a.m. consolation elimination bracket game. This 11:30 a.m. game produces the challenger in the championship game who will have to win two games to take the title.
Games have a 90-minute time limit and have been shoehorned into two days of tournament play, a grueling task for teams. Especially when the large school tourney features eight teams and the small school tourney has six, whereas the ASAA boy’s baseball tournament is spread over three days for their eight teams in a single elimination format.
“It handicaps the teams that only have one pitcher if you happen to fall into the losers bracket, or the smaller schools that have a limited number of pitchers,” Massey said. “Even if you are a highly seeded team you are playing multiple games in a day.”
Teams from out of town could possibly be facing three games the first day, with a late game at the end. Then they have to deal with getting fed, a night’s sleep, and back to the field for an early contest. A team in the losers bracket could possibly end up playing five or six games the following day.
“I think that is cruel and unusual punishment quite frankly and doesn’t lead to good championship play,” Massey said. “I think we are in fine shape though, even though this is the least number of girls traveling (13) I have ever taken. It is basically the number of players we have worked with all season.”
The possible state starting roster could include senior Ashli Kikendall on the mound and sophomore battery mate Breanne Chapman behind the plate; sophomore Gracie Meiners on first base, sophomore Andrea Gordon on second, junior Malin Murray on third, sophomore Kayla Balovich at shortstop, sophomore Emma Good in left field, junior Rachel Doogan in right and sophomore Randi Held in center. Freshman Savanna Schauwecker also has a potent bat and pitching arm and could start, as well as freshman Rachelle Roldan who splits catching duties and is batting a respectable .308 in the 11 games she has appeared. Sophomore Katelyn Fagerstrom and senior Savannah Dindinger are also competent fielders and pinch runners. Balovich and Schauwecker are also part of the dominant pitching staff. Kikendall and Murray are the only two Crimson Bears with significant state tournament playing time.
“As the season has gone on we are coming together more and more as a team,” Massey said. “Especially in the latter part of the season. The young kids are finally figuring out there is more to being a team than just being nine to 13 individuals, they all have their own roles and are ready to chip in. And that is very important.”
Gordon leads the team in home runs with three and is batting .446; Murray is rapping the bat at .649 (2 HR, 8 RBI, 17 runs scored); Meiners is hitting .527 (29 hits, 1 HR, 26 RBI, 25 RS); Balovich is at .462 (30 H, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 26 RS); Schauwecker at .400 (20 H, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 25 RS); Fagerstrom .400 (4 H, 2 RBI, 9 RS); Kikendall .350 (21 H, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 15 RS); Held .349 (15 H, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 17 RS); Good .319 (15 H, 9 RBI, 18 RS); Doogan .205 (8 H, 6 RBI, 10 RS); Chapman .167 and Dindinger .143.
“I think the team in general is ready to go up and give it their best shot,” Massey stated.
The small school softball tournament also opens on Friday in a double elimination format. Monroe Catholic 7-7 (Mid Alaska Conference 2) plays Soldotna 12-8 (Northern Lights Conference 2) and the winner plays Sitka (Southeast Conference 1) who received a first round bye. Eielson (MAC 1) also received a bye and will play the winner of Homer 14-5 (NLC 1) and Ketchikan 9-11-2 (SEC 2). A tournament schedule is shown on website ASAA.org.
JDHS has lost only to West and West Valley once each this season. Among their victories have been large school state entrants West Valley, Lathrop, Colony and small school entrants Homer, Ketchikan, Sitka and Soldotna.
The Crimson Bears last won the state title in 2010, posting a 4-1 tourney record and defeating South 10-2, West Valley 11-4, Chugiak 6-1, losing to East 11- 8 and winning the rematch game 11-0 for the title. In 2011 JDHS lost two games right away to West 6-3 and East 3-2.
The Crimson Bears have won titles in 1999, ‘02, ‘04, ‘05, ‘07, ‘08, and have been runner-ups in ‘96, ‘98, ‘03, and ‘06.
The constant in all these years has been head coach Massey. When asked how many state tournaments he has coached in, Massey replied,
“I don’t know. All of them I guess. How ever many they have had. I am not a big numbers guy.”
As a matter of fact, Massey has been at the Crimson Bears’ helm since the inaugural state tournament in 1996 when JDHS lost to Service in the title game.
Among his all-state player selections are former players Kim Manning, Brooke Parker, Mindy Massey, Amelia Rivera, Heidi Brown, Angie Kemp, Mindy Moffett, Mary Ann Moffet, Susan Parr, Kara Lindley, Natalie Cappacci, Hillary Turner, Suzanne Parr, Andrea Walker, Krista Staveland, Danielle Larson, Kari Parr, Ashley Larson, Hannah Barril, Ilea Belcourt, Jordon Johnston, Torie Powers, Sammy Roguska, Andi Doerflinger, Courtney Wagner, Annie Hegar, Darby Brown, Nicole Fenumiai, Brittany Fenumiai, Jennifer Nelson, and Taylor Larson.
“I don’t worry about the past,” Massey said. “I just worry about the present year. This is the important one. I think these girls have a ton of talent and if we don’t mess them up I think we will represent the school and town real well. I think our girls are as good as any at the tournament. I hope they take to heart the confidence the coaches have in them. If they go out and play to their physical ability, keep their focus and minds on what they are capable of doing, I think they will do very, very well.”