The Juneau-Douglas High School softball team posted a perfect 5-0 record during its season-openers in Ketchikan last weekend, but coach Kari Monagle feels there's still room for improvement.
Juneau will get plenty of time to work out its minor problems this weekend as the Crimson Bears play four more games against Ketchikan and Sitka today and Saturday at Sitka's Blatchley Middle School. Juneau (5-0 overall) plays Sitka (0-5) at 4:45 p.m. this afternoon and Ketchikan (2-3) at 6:15 p.m. tonight. On Saturday, Juneau plays Ketchikan at 11:45 a.m. and Sitka at 3:15 p.m.
The Crimson Bears claimed three victories over Ketchikan (10-0, 5-0 and 2-1) and two more over Sitka (3-2 and 3-1) last weekend, which left Monagle saying she was happy by the overall performance.
"As far as last weekend, I was really happy with our pitching," Monagle said. "Even though I don't like close games, we hung in there and won two one-run games and another 3-1. If people got on base we were able to keep them from running. Suzanne (Parr, Juneau's catcher) is so strong behind the plate and if someone does run she'll gun it to Kari (Parr, Suzanne's shortstop-playing twin). In that last game with Ketchikan, Suzanne made two blocks of the plate to save it for us."
Last weekend, Juneau's pitchers combined to strike out 35 batters while only giving up 16 hits, seven walks and four runs. And that's with Monagle not throwing senior starter Nicole Adair more than a handful of innings to give Adair more time to get over an arm injury that sidelined her much of last season. Juneau's batters also excelled last weekend as they connected for 38 hits and 22 runs.
"We had a lot of different people doing the hitting and scoring for us," Monagle said. "I don't remember us ever having so deep of a lineup before. We're pretty solid all the way down the batting order and, if they're not getting hits, they're connecting and putting the ball in play. What a great bunch of girls. I think we're really gelling as a team."
But there were some things Monagle said the team needs to improve if it's going to compete with the state's usual softball powers of Service and Chugiak when Juneau travels to Anchorage later this spring.
"I was kind of amazed we didn't hit Sitka better," Monagle said. "I don't know if we were trying to kill the ball, but we had some problems. One, we need to work on hitting to right field more, and two, we need to keep the ball out of the air and look for more line drives and grounders through the middle. We also need to cut down on our errors, we had seven which is about what our opponents had against us. We can't afford to make errors when we go north."
In last weekend's other games, Ketchikan beat Sitka 5-0 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday. Monagle said both teams are stronger than they have been in past years, especially when they play Juneau.
"Sitka is much better than it was a couple of years ago," Monagle said. "It's like we look at Service and Chugiak when we go north, Ketchikan and Sitka, they're gunning for us. Having stronger Southeast teams, as much the big-win games are easier on the coach, having stronger teams prepares us better for the end of the season."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.