The 2013 Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears’ baseball team will open the season the same way they ended it in 2012, taking on talented southeast conference foe Ketchikan.
However, in 2012 the Crimson Bears’ last game in Anchorage against Ketchikan gave JDHS their fifth state title. Tonight’s game begins the process all over again.
JDHS has been in 10 of the 13 high school state championship tournaments and have won 10 SE Region V championships since 2000.
With eight returning seniors, two classmates, and nine state champion players, the target on their backs will be a little more comfortable to wear.
“We are senior heavy,” JDHS coach Will Race said. “It is a pretty potent lineup, pretty volatile. My job this season is making sure all that seasoned senior-ness stays focused. There are three captains for a reason, they are strong leaders in their own individual ways and together they will do a great job.”
Starting pitcher Tanner Petrie and ace Jeffery Pusich, a captain, will command the rubber. Pusich had the team’s best mark last season (5-0). Petrie threw a no-hitter against Kayhi facing the minimum number of hitters (21) and striking out 10. Petrie also struck out 10 against Thunder Mountain in the region tournament. Both pitched in the state tournament last season and both play first base when the other is not on the mound.
Christian Gould mans the hot corner, moving into third from left field.
Tal Norvell will fill the hole at shortstop and will be the team’s closer.
Last season’s all-state selection Kyle Gould is at second base and will bat at number three. Gould, a team captain, hit over .400 last season, and may also be a closer.
Kurt Vandor, a captain, will play left field; all-state selection Jackson Lehnhart is at center and will bat lead off; and Tod Baseden will control right field.
“Basically we have an all senior field,” Race said. “Except at catcher.”
Sophomore Nathan Klein backed up graduate Ryan Kelly behind the plate last season and now will be starting. He could also find time on the mound.
“We did really well hitting wise in Arizona,” Race said of the team’s spring training. “We batted well. Defensively we struggled a little bit but I don’t think that will be a problem once the season gets going.”
Seniors Silvester Olivares-Ramos and Fred Collier have been in the program and have made varsity this season. Collier is one of the fastest players on the team and will be a pinch runner and Olivares-Ramos will be a designated hitter and could play some third base.
Sophomores Grant Ainsworth (third, outfield) and Michael Dale (middle infielder), and freshman Alex Muir (catcher) will each provide support to the varsity.
“Overall the team knows what they have set out for them,” Race said. “It is hard to do a repeat.
JDHS has repeated once, winning the 2002 and 2003 state titles.
“They have the ability to do it,” Race said. “They are playing against extreme competition. It seems like all schools did not lose a lot, the level among all schools throughout the state should be great.”
Service High School, who went undefeated through the season until losing to Juneau in the state semifinal, graduated just three; state tournament representatives Monroe (2 grads), Kenai (4 grads), Colony (3 grads), South (4 grads), Lathrop (8 grads) and Ketchikan (6 grads) will all be ready.
Ketchikan was the region surprise last year. They posted a dismal 3-11 season record but finished by taking six-of-eight, including the two losses too JDHS in the region and state championships.
They will not be taken lightly tonight as they return their dominating pitching staff and host the Region V tournament this season.
Sitka dealt JDHS their three lone losses last year and they return a ton of firepower. Cross-town rival Thunder Mountain (preview in tomorrow’s paper) is talented enough to make the state venue and Petersburg is fielding a league team this season.
“We are excited for the season,” Race said. “It should be interesting. We played great baseball last season. The players realized last year how good and talented they were and they really came together as a team. They believed in themselves. Now it is knowing that they are talented, knowing you are the best team in state and taking that out and making sure you are doing that every single game. Which is what we have to do this year, we have to practice as hard as we did when we weren’t on the top.”
Race moves from assistant coach to head coach and Sheldon Winters is in charge of administrative duties. Frank Barthel, Steve Bavard, and Jamie Daniel are assistants and Mark Pusich is JV coach. Since school was out when the Crimson Bears won the state title last season, the team will be acknowledged during their first home game in May.
Petrie will get the start tonight against Ketchikan. He won all three games against Kayhi last season. With more power and control this year, Petrie, like the Crimson Bears, is working to stay on the top.