The baseball drum beats on in Juneau.
Two days separated the end of the high school season and the start of American Legion baseball for eight Juneau-Douglas High School players.
On Saturday Donavin McCurley and company captured the state championship with an exhilarating 3-2 defeat of rival South Anchorage; on Tuesday they reported to their first practice as members of the American Legion Juneau Post 25 team.
“We’re still trying to get better, we’re still trying to go for that same thing, a state championship, once again,” he said. “But what we got to do first is work and that’s what it’s going to take.”
Juneau coach Joe Tompkins said the Crimson Bears couldn’t wait to start a new season.
“I had some guys on JD after they won (state), before that day was even over, they were like, ‘Coach, when’s our first practice?’” Tompkins said. “It’s kind of nice having them that hungry.”
Post 25 hosts their first of four homestands this weekend, marking the beginning of a 24-game season that concludes with the American Legion State Tournament in Anchorage from July 26-31.
Juneau hosts Chugiak Post 33 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park for a four-game series starting on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The series continues with a doubleheader on Saturday (noon and 3 p.m.) before wrapping up with one final game on Sunday at 11 a.m.
The team hosts East Post 34 next weekend before heading up to Anchorage and Wasilla at the end of the month for the first of two extended road trips.
A total of 16 teams make up Alaska’s American Legion baseball league. Juneau and Chugiak share the National Division with Eagle River, East, West, Bartlett, Fairbanks and Wasilla. The American Division is made up of Dimond, Service, South, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Palmer and North Pole.
Last year Juneau battled through the loser’s bracket to win its first state championship in over 30 years, defeating state powerhouses Dimond and South on back-to-back days.
The team advanced to the American Legion Northwest Regional Tournament in Missoula, Montana but was quickly eliminated with losses to Montana and Idaho ballclubs.
It was an eye-opening experience for state tournament MVP Zeb Storie — the team hadn’t dropped back-to-back games all season. The team went 22-2 in the regular season, winning 17 of its 18 league games.
“It was kind of a wake-up call for me,” Storie said. “Last year was the first time in 33 years Juneau won state and I don’t think an Alaska team ever won down there in Montana. So I’d like to make some more history this year.”
With over half of last year’s roster back, including virtually the entire pitching rotation, don’t be surprised if the team wins another state championship.
The team returns nine players, including its core of Storie, McCurley, Owen Mendoza, Kasey Watts, Bobby Cox and Philip Wall.
Wall is coming off a successful season at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul in which he went 5-2 and pitched four complete games.
Gatorade Player of the Year Michael Cesar highlights the new additions to the team. Cesar, a member of the 2016 squad, took a one-year hiatus from American Legion to play on a select 18U team in Seattle.
The rest of the 10 newcomers include up-and-coming talents from both JDHS (Riley Griffin, Christian Ludeman, Brock McCormick and Olin Rawson) and TMHS (Bryson Echiverri, Cameron Eppers, Chase Foster, Brennon Ludeman, Chris San Nicolas and Gabe Storie).
“We got a lot of young guys so I think the opportunity to be around some young guys and teach them how to play the game right is pretty inspiring,” Storie said. “And to play with my brother.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.