ANCHORAGE — Somewhere between the 325-foot left field wall and the 410-foot center field barrier, the hopes of the Colony Knights moving on to the semifinals of the state high school baseball tournament soared roughly 10 feet past the home run fence, courtesy of Juneau-Douglas High School’s Kyle “Kage” Gould.
Gould’s grand slam in the bottom of the third inning took the Crimson Bears out of an early 3-0 funk and put them into a major 4-3 groove.
“I don’t even remember the at-bat actually,” Gould said. “I think I fouled one off first didn’t I? Wasn’t it the second pitch? And he hung one in there.”
The pitch didn’t hang for long, quickly changing rotation and moving rapidly 375-feet in the opposite direction.
“We were in trouble in the beginning,” Gould said. “Coach always tells us to keep our heads up and keep fighting. We came back. I didn’t even know I could hit the ball that far. It was just a nice day and the ball carries. That is my first grand slam ever. I think people are surprised at my size that I can hit the ball that hard.”
Colony senior Jonathan Boyer, a college prospect throwing in the 85-mile-per-hour range, had hemmed in JDHS at the plate up to that point.
The Crimson Bears were riding the masterful work of mound ace Tanner Petrie and pitching coach Sean Bavard.
Petrie and Boyer would both go the distance, each striking out the first at bats.
Petrie recorded eight strikeouts for the complete game win and Boyer retired 10 JDHS batters.
“I know we still have a really big game tomorrow (Friday),” Petrie said. “I feel like we are sitting pretty good and we have plenty more good pitchers coming in that can take care of the job. I always know if I can just get the ball low and keep it low then my team has my back, because we have a really outstanding fielding team.”
Colony struck for three runs in the top of the second inning and seemed to live up to the hype of their undefeated conference record.
Knights junior Ben Ross reached on an error at first base and ran to second base as the ball caromed to the backstop, and scored on Jacob Butcher’s single.
After a Petrie strikeout, Colony’s Logan Sanders singled. On one of Petrie’s rare miscues, both runners advanced on a passed ball.
Petrie recovered to strike out the next batter for two outs.
Colony’s Zane Mileur hit a two-run single for the last runs the Knights would see.
Petrie recorded his third strikeout of the inning to retire the side.
When JDHS struggled to get a runner in the bottom of the inning, it appeared the second southeast team would fall into the consolation bracket as Ketchikan lost 7-1 to Kodiak in the tournament’s opening game.
Instead, Petrie sandwiched a strikeout between a fly ball to Tod Baseden in right field and a ground out to Kyle Gould at second.
“It was a great pitching performance,” JDHS pitching coach Sean Bavard said. “I would say gutsy. A fantastic job. It is just confidence. You have to have confidence to be a good pitcher, and Tanner had a lot of confidence today.”
In the bottom of the third, Tal Norvell rapped a leadoff single and stole second. Baseden walked and Jackson Lehnhart bunted to load the bases.
With no outs, Gould fouled late the first pitch, and then slide slightly farther back in the box. The next pitch collided with Gould’s swing and it was apparent the ballpark would not hold the blast.
“This is a huge win for us,” JDHS coach Will Race said. “Mentally just hitting the ball. We had a tough time in regions but today we just broke through. It was a big mental break through for us. I think, going forward, these guys will not be afraid of anybody. Colony is a good team, probably the best team we have faced all season. It was a good recognition check.”
According to Race the Crimson Bears have spent the last practices focusing on mental preparation and adjusting to situations halfway through a game.
“Every pitcher we face here we have never seen before,” Race said. “So we have to realize we can’t do what we have been doing all year. We have to stop, think and then go forward.”
That preparation was put to the test in the first two innings as Colony’s Boyer struck out the side twice.
The Crimson Bears adjusted to his speed by inching back in the box, starting their swings sooner and trying to just make contact. The result was Gould’s grand slam in the third and two more runs in the fourth as Baseden and Lehnhart singled and scored on a K. Gould fielder’s choice and a Christian Gould sacrifice.
Colony had two runners on in both the fifth and sixth innings. Petrie struck out two batters in the fifth and Tal Norvell scooped a grounder at shortstop to stop the threat; Norvell threw out one in the sixth and Tod Baseden caught one of his three fly balls and Jeffrey Pusich fielded a shot at first to end that threat.
Colony’s last chance seventh inning started with Petrie striking out their first batter. After a walk and a single, Petrie put the hitters off balance and Baseden caught the last two outs of the game.
Crimson Bears Kurt Vandor and Baseden were selected the Good Sports of the game, while K. Gould received Player Of The Game honors.
JDHS’ six runs came on seven hits and two errors; Colony’s three runs were on six hits with two errors.
JDHS will face the winner of the Service/West Valley (late score) game in the semifinals today at 7 p.m.
After Thursday’s game the Crimson Bears gathered near the outfield fence and each said what they did to contribute to the team that day, a reminder that everyone helps the team.
“We do this to make sure everyone was in the game,” Race said. “The game we lost at regions to Ketchikan was a tough loss and one of those things where it was a double header and you have to put nine guys back out there and they are playing their hardest but everyone else is hungry and forgot about the game. This is one of those things where we all need to make sure we are into every game. There is always a job to do. And that is my job as a coach, to make sure everyone is into the game.”
Some of the Crimson Bears said they cheered their hearts out, some warmed up other players, the backup catcher caught between innings, one picked up a loose bat, another did not hang his head after striking out twice, some had put outs, some stole bases, one struck out eight opponents, and another sent a 4-run homer where outfielders fear to tread.
Kodiak 7, Ketchikan 1
Region V champion Ketchikan fell 7-1 to Southcentral Conference champs Kodiak in the first game of state tournament play.
“We did not adjust at the plate,” Ketchikan coach Andy Berntson said. “Fundamentally we had an inning that we didn’t play defense or execute two bunt defenses, allowed too many walks and they scattered a couple hits in there.”
The game was scoreless through three innings. The Kings tallied in the top of the fourth, scoring one run with one hit. The Bears answered with seven runs on eight hits with two errors.
Kodiak’s Brandan Mahle struck out 16 Kings hitters while Ketchikan’s Brien Auger put down eight in four innings, before being relieved by Nathan Bonck and Omar Mendoza. The Kings’ Ben Bullock and Mendoza were Good Sports winners and Kable Lervick was Player Of The Game. Kodiak’s Jon LeVan and Seth Starr were GS and Mahle POTG.
Ketchikan faces Lathrop today in consolation bracket play. Kodiak faces South (a 2-0 winner over Lathrop) in the semifinals today at 4 p.m.; the Kings face Lathrop in consolation round today at 10 a.m.
“Obviously our pitcher was the key,” Kodiak coach James Arnold said. “Brandon was the number one pitcher on the Kenai state championship American Legion team last year, so Ketchikan got a little bit unlucky drawing him. The other thing is once we started being more patient at the plate and bunting we got our runs.”
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