Nothing signifies the 2012 Crimson Bears state baseball championship 12-6 win over Ketchikan on Saturday at Anchorage’s Mulcahy Stadium than the word “Team.”
“We feel great,” Senior Lance Ibesate said when asked how he felt. “I am so happy for our team.”
Ibesate had just spent championship day pitching six innings, striking out six Kayhi batters and walking five and spreading out eight hits. On the offensive side he went 4-4 with five RBIs including a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning after Ketchikan had closed to within two.
To top it off he sped off down the base path for two stolen bases on his way to Player Of The Game Honors.
Yes the Kings got six runs on the Crimson Bears ace. Yet Ibesate stated, “My team had my back. I trust my team.”
And the team had each other’s back.
Ketchikan, playing in their first state title game, put the first points on the board with a Dalton Spear 2 RBI single just after the national anthem.
JDHS responded in the bottom of the inning as junior Jackson Lehnhart singled and scored on Ibesate’s triple and junior Kyle Gould singled Ibesate home.
When Kayhi’s Omar Mendoza got a walk to start the second inning, senior catcher Ryan Kelly gunned him down on a steal attempt at second base.
“This is probably the best feeling in the world for us right now,” Kelly said after the game. “I don’t know what to compare this too.”
And Kelly was a sophomore on the 2010 Crimson Bears that went undefeated on the season for the state championship.
The high light of this year’s title game for Kelly?
“When Lance hit his grand slam,” Kelly said. “That was probably the peak of the game for me.”
The Crimson Bears tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the second. Tod Basden singled and stole second base, advance to third on a Lehnhart sacrifice and scored on Ibesate’s single. Senior Josh Magnuson then singled Ibesate home.
“This feels really great for us,” Magnuson said after the game. “Lance pitched a great game. We are in the record book now and we are pumped on that.”
When Kayhi’s Conor Fitzgerald hit a line shot that appeared to be extra bases in the third inning, JDHS senior third baseman Brenden Winters leapt up to snag the out.
“This is amazing,” Senior Brenden Winters said. “All our hard work paid off. We are going to talk about this for a while definitely. I am so happy for the coaches, and the fans, the school and our team.”
When Kayhi tied the score in the fourth inning and had runners on base, Lehnhart chased down a long fly ball to end the rally. Ibesate got the point back in the bottom half with a single and steal and an RBI single by Gould. Lehnhart ruined another Kayhi attempt in the fifth with another long run and over the shoulder catch.
The bottom of the fifth were the Crimson Bears fireworks. With one out juniors Tanner Petrie and Christian Gould and sophomore Kellen Johansen singled. Baseden hit an RBI single, Lehnhart did the same as C. Gould charged towards home as the pitcher delivered.
Ibesate than took everyone around the bases on his blast over the left field fence.
That should have been enough, but smart play by K. Gould drew a hit by pitch and Magnuson rapped a shot off the mound. Kelly was hit by a pitch to load bags again and Petrie hit an RBI single for breathing room at 11-4.
Ketchikan struck again in the sixth. Ibesate issued his last walk and a double found a path to the wall for a point. Than a passed ball allowed the Kings’ last point to cross.
“Obviously we are really proud of the boys,” JDHS coach Sheldon Winters said. “They stepped it up. Our seniors really stepped it up and we thanked them for that in the post-game talk. We said that this championship belongs to everybody on the team and how it was a complete team effort. I mean, it was a combination of the big things and the big things were wonderful.”
Big things for the Crimson Bears included Ibesate’s grand slam, senior Josh Magnuson’s pitching performance against Service in the semifinal, Kelly’s hitting against Service.
“There are some big things we could not have done without for sure,” Winters said. “But there are a lot of the little things we could not have won without.”
It isn’t unnoticed that junior Jeffrey Pusich threw three innings in the 6-3 opening tourney win over Monroe, which allowed Ibesate to close against Service and have an arm in the title match against Ketchikan.
Little things like junior Tal Norvell pinch running against Service. Sure the Crimson Bears and Cougars provided plenty of hits but the game was won on a heads up play by Norvell stealing second base, going to third on a catcher’s bobble and then scoring what would be the 11-10 winning run.
Or Johansen’s two hits that kept rallies going in the title game.
“I am so stoked right now,” Johansen said “To help the team win. Wow. Lance got that big hit and we just pulled away. We have a lot of guys returning next year too.”
Little things like bench cheers, retrieving foul balls, and teammates pushing shaving cream into the face of Ibesate during his post game network interview.
“People forget about the little details,” Winters said. “But I try to stress to the players that it is all the stuff that everybody puts out. This championship win today was a great team effort. A lot of people didn’t thing we could do it. But the people that really believed in themselves are the players.”
The little things.
How about a 6-foot-fourish part time bench cheerer and first baseman named Pusich who takes the seventh inning and strikes out the first batter and only sees three more Kayhi uniforms before the state title’s last pitch is his.
It was Pusich that allowed pitchers Magnuson, Petrie and Ibesate the innings to take on Service. A game that saw the Crimson Bears jump out to a 10-0 advantage by the fifth inning, only to have the powerhouse Cougars whack away at the margin and close to within 11-10 and a runner on second base with two outs in the seventh. Then a little thing like a routine ground ball to Ibesate and a throw to first for an out by a half step kept the dream alive.
Before the seventh inning of the Service contest began, a player’s voice from the dugout yelled out, “This is the inning of our lives boys.”
And the team went out and played the inning of their lives again.
Magnuson stated mental toughness of the team was key and when he passed the ball to reliever Petrie he said, “Just do your job, you are a great pitcher, just do what you have to do.”
Petrie stated, “We were throwing strikes and they were hitting them to the right places.”
Said Ibesate, “I just wanted to get three outs, that is all I wanted, before they could score three runs. Actually we play every inning like it is the biggest inning of our lives.”
Little things like a pitching coach who sits unnoticed on a plastic jug of baseballs during the game.
“All season I have been working with these guys and just know what they have and can throw and I believe in them,” JDHS pitching coach Sean Bavard said. “And I hope they believe in themselves. They just come out here and perform, sometimes unexpectedly.
Josh was just throwing strikes. That is all I asked of all my pitchers, just throw strikes and keep the batters off balance and guessing, and hopefully the batter guess wrong. They all just have their own little personality and I have kind of figured out what they like to throw in all their different counts and situations. It is just all experience.. Service felt great, it almost gave me a heart attack.”
Coach Winters stated the Service game was a barnburner.
“Service is an awesome team, we just got out on them early. When we were up by 10 we really wanted to close it out because we knew it wasn’t over. They worked it back and you saw what they could do hitting wise. It wasn’t that our pitching slacked off, Service is an awesome team and we were just lucky to get out of there. This turned into be a fantastic game and we were happy to win it. My hats off to Service what a great team, and too Ketchikan. How wonderful is it that two southeast teams play for the state title. That being said though, this team (JDHS) has more heart than any team I have ever seen, and more mental toughness. I knew we could hit and play good defense but it was going to be about how mentally tough they could be. These guys, every player that wears the uniform, is a reason we are state champions today.”
The team sportsmanship award went to the Ketchikan Kings and the team with the highest grade point went to South Anchorage.
JDHS put Crimson Bears’ Lance Ibesate, Ryan Kelly, Kyle Gould and Jackson Lehnhart on the All-State Tournament team along with Ketchikan’s Dalton Spear and Colton Paulsen, Colony’s Zane Mileur, Lathrop’s Rodney Perdue, Kenai’s AJ Hull, Service’s Jake Ridley and South’s Andy Schaefer.
“I just want to stress that this team did it with everybody giving us a little bit,” Winters said before existing the state championship field. “It is important for everyone to know that they own part of this championship trophy.”
Following close beside him, wiping shaving cream from his hair and uniform, smiling senior Lance Ibesate said, “We didn’t take Ketchikan lightly. I could have cheered more maybe, we cheer a lot on this team.”
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