Thank seniors Haleigh DiCarlo and Alondra Echiverri. Thank also Rachel Macaulay, Maxie Saceda-Hurt, Nina Fenumiai and Kyra Jenkins Hayes.
These six players powered the Thunder Mountain High School softball team to a 9-2 regular season and the Region V Softball Championship.
On Saturday, TMHS captured their second-straight Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska State Softball Championship in Fairbanks.
The Falcons defeated Juneau-Douglas High School 17-6 in the small schools title game. It was the final episode of TMHS’ dominance in the tournament that began on Thursday.
“It feels really good,” DiCarlo said of earning another state title. “Last year we were a really good team too, but coming into this year … I thought we were really going to struggle against everybody else, so I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”
DiCarlo credited first-year head coach Brittany Gladsjo with helping the team believe in themselves.
“She was more aggressive in telling us to go get what we want,” she said.
A successful state tournament
The Falcons defeated Hutchinson before crushing Soldotna 18-7, Soldotna (again) 15-0 and JDHS 20-0 to get back to the championship game. Only one of TMHS’ five games in Fairbanks went the customary seven innings. The others were called at least two innings early due to softball’s mercy rule, enforced whenever, “a team is 15 runs behind after three innings, 12 runs behind after four innings or eight runs behind after five innings.”
Up until Saturday, JDHS also made friends with the mercy rule at the state tournament. The Crimson Bears vanquished North Pole, Homer and North Pole again, but weren’t immune to TMHS’ deadly bats in both their games against them on Saturday.
“We have a pretty strong lineup — especially the first five: me, Haleigh, Maxie, Kyra, Nina,” Echiverri said. “And then the end of our lineup is just as good.”
The Falcons’ accumulated over 60 hits in the tournament and saw several of its sluggers hit grand slams.
The final game
It wasn’t home runs though that won the championship game for the Falcons, just good all-around softball.
Pitchers’ Jenkins Hayes and Fenumiai together limited the Crimson Bears to eight hits. In addition, all nine batters in the Falcons’ lineup hit or walked in the game.
Sami Good, Skylar Hickok and Elisa Fabrello helped JDHS strike an early 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first inning though, the Falcons drew four walks and tied the game at 3-3 against JDHS pitcher Leah Spargo.
TMHS took the lead in the second inning when Spargo, who was terrific all tournament, left the game with excruciating back pain.
“On a scale of one to 10 when I went off the field, I’d put it at an eight, so it was pretty bad,” Spargo said. “OK, well Skylar (Hickok) disagrees with me and thinks it was a 12 out of 10, but it was pretty bad.”
Spargo was helped off field by others. It was the fourth game of the tournament in which the junior pitched.
Mia Loree finished out the second inning for her at pitcher, but not before TMHS took a four-run lead.
Loree and fellow relief pitcher Elisa Fabrello ran into more trouble in the third inning. DiCarlo and Echiverri both walked, and Jenkins Hayes hit a triple to bring the seniors in to score. Fenumiai, Peyton Harp, Macaulay, Megan Dallas and Gabrielle Scales would all add to the offense with walks or hits.
After starting the inning with a walk, Echiverri ended it with the final RBI of the game, a sacrifice fly to center field. Saceda-Hurt tagged up from third to score — representing the 10th run of the inning.
“They came out hitting and we weren’t really ready for that,” JDHS’ Sami Good said.
The game would’ve ended after the fourth inning had Good not scored one run in the fourth.
JDHS needed to score four runs in the top of the fifth just to keep the game going, but Fenumiai retired three straight batters to get the win and championship.
Afterwards, the Juneau teams embraced each other on the field.
“I think they played really well, and that’s what I told a lot of the players that I was close with,” DiCarlo said.
Echiverri did the same, saying she’d rather not have to play against the girls she grew up playing softball with.
“It’s a little bit hard,” she said. “It’s also nice because, I mean, we used to lose to them all of the time when the TMHS softball program first started. So it’s nice to be on the top now, but it is a little hard seeing your friends like that because we know exactly what it’s like.”
JDHS graduates seniors Good, Maddie Johnson and Ally Ireland-Haight. TMHS graduates seniors Echiverri, DiCarlo and Alice Duncan.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.