The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons made their first ever trip out of state over Spring Break and attended the annual Coach Bob Invitational Tournament hosted by the Boulder Creek High School baseball program.
According to coach Bill McCauley, “This is baseball heaven, Spring Break in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Co-Head coaches Matt Greely and McCauley, and assistant coach Joe Tompkins took players Hunter Miller, Tristan Forrest, Finn Collins, Stefan Beedle, Reece Milks, Gus Swanton, Jake Tanner, Tim Christensen, Guy Bean, Matt Cunningham, Jackson Pavitt, RJ Markovich, Dylan Johnson, Brian Mielke, and Collin Ludeman to play in the prestigious competitive tournament. The Falcons graduated Chris Luck, Erik Reyna, Chatham Miller and Cam Thomas last year.
“We took 11 underclassmen with us,” Greely said. “It was really eye-opening for a lot of our kids. Just to see the caliber of baseball that is played down there and hopefully it will be used as a motivational tool for guys to come into the season more polished. It was really awesome to see some of the younger guys step up. That was a big question mark for us going into this season, how some of the freshman who had never been in a varsity game and some of the sophomores that are still getting their feet wet in varsity action would respond to adversity against good opponents. Ovderall there were some really encouraging signs from guys, even though it did not translate into wins. We have a solid core returning and if they can build on last season the future is bright.”
The Falcons went winless on the trip but got invaluable experience playing three teams from Arizona including Boulder Creek HS, Willow Canyon HS and Apollo HS, and, Inola HS and Ponca City HS, both form Oklahoma.
According to McCauley the team also attended two Kansas City Royals practice sessions at the Surprise, AZ Royals’ Spring Training facility.
The boys got to see Juneau product Kellen Moen pitch in a high rookie league game and observed his post-session conditioning workout on an outdoor training table. A second visit allowed the team to watch four different level (rookie, high rookie, AA and AAA) annual Royals vs. Rangers practice games.
The team also had lawn seating in left field to watch a Mariners’ big league game. Two players were out-wrestled for a ground-rule double ball that bounced in front of the team. The person who got the ball turned out to be the Assistant Principal of Apollo HS.
“The tournament provides a wonderful learning experience for the boys,” McCauley wrote in an email. “We hope to continue to play in it. We offer many thanks to the generous support and donations from the Juneau community and business sponsors that helped make this happen.”
The Falcons lost to Apollo High School 5-4, Boulder Creek 13-3, Ponca City 12-0 and Inola 13-4. Complete scores and stats were not available for all games played. JDHS is currently at the same venue.
The Falcons and Crimson Bears both play in the Southeast baseball conference which includes Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Craig. Regular season games, three against each southeast opponent, determine seeding for the double-elimination Region V tournament held May 23-25 in Ketchikan. The top two teams move on to the state tournament at Anchorage. The Falcons travel to Sitka to face the Wolves and North Pole on April 12-13, these games will count for overall records but not regular season standings.