The Juneau Post 25 baseball team overcame four years of coming in third place to win the American Legion Baseball state championship last summer.
The Juneau-Douglas High School team —which features four Post 25 players — hope to write a similar story with their high school team.
As freshmen, Donavin McCurley, Luke Mallinger, Kasey Watts, Jacob Dale and Michael Cesar finished third at the state tournament. As juniors, they finished fourth. This year, they want to go out on top.
JDHS coach Chad Bentz says the team has the talent to do it but it will take a strong work ethic.
“If we have quality practices, everything else should take care of itself,” Bentz said. “We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of good kids, that senior class has been playing together since they were 10. I’m bummed that (the season) is starting because I know that it’s going to end and I’m not going to have them again.”
The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team plays in its first home games of the season tonight and Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. So far, the team is 2-2.
Despite being only four games into the season, the team knows one thing for sure.
“We have a lot of flexibility with our pitching staff,” Cesar said. “Kasey can throw a game, Donavin can throw a game, Jacob can throw a game and then we got Erik Kelly as well. It’s really just about if they can go in and throw strikes, we got a good defense to back them up.”
Brandon Keeler, Brock McCormick, Luis Mojica, Olin Rawson and Garrett Bryant are just a few of the other capable pitchers on the team.
Last year’s team played as good in the regular season as any in the state. The Crimson Bears were the No. 1 seed in the Region V tournament with an 11-1 conference record. They lost regionals to Sitka, who would go on to win the state championship.
Cesar said Sitka’s team chemistry stood out, especially later in the season. He said team chemistry will go a long way in determining this team’s fate.
“As long as we can keep that up, keep our pitching up, keep the errors and the walks down, I think we have a really good shot this year,” Cesar said.
On Monday, they’ll square off against Thunder Mountain High School, another team that features four state champions from Juneau Post 25.
One of them is senior Bobby Cox. He says the Falcons, 6-6 in the conference last season, struggle with consistency.
“We tend to fall apart a lot right at the last moment, it’s tough,” Cox said. “But this year’s a different opportunity and I believe that we really do have a shot (to go to state) this year.”
Cox said the team has worked hard to prepare for the game on Monday and all the rest that will follow.
“Everyone’s improving and improving fast,” he said. “So I just have a good feeling.”
TMHS coach Bill Macaulay said the voids left by shortstop Zeb Storie (now an assistant coach with the team) and pitcher Philip Wall (now a University of Northwestern pitcher) gives other players a chance to step up.
Macaulay said his team, like JDHS, has a lot of pitchers. Sophomores Gabe Storie and Bryson Echiverri and seniors Cox and Sammy McKnight will likely start on the mound.
“We’re working on getting into good, solid, mid-season form pitching which is hard because last weekend was canceled and our next weekend is our bye weekend,” Macaulay said. “So we’re starting off the regular season without playing yet.”
Echiverri, senior Chandler Lewis, senior Owen Mendoza and junior Chris San Nicolas will be some of the players manning the TMHS infield.
After playing JDHS on Monday, Thunder Mountain travels to Ketchikan for three games on May 4-5. TMHS finishes off the regular season with a two-week homestand. TMHS takes on JDHS on May 7, Sitka on May 11-12, JDHS again on May 15 and Petersburg on May 18-19.
The Region V tournament is May 24-26 in Sitka.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.