With their young roster, the defending state champion Juneau-Douglas High School softball team knew it might get off to a slow start this season.
That came to pass as the Crimson Bears dropped a pair of one-run games this weekend to the older Sitka Wolves, a squad dominated by seniors.
Juneau lost 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning on Friday, then fell 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh inning in Saturday's first game at Vilandre Memorial Park near Sitka's Blatchley Middle School. Juneau won Saturday's late game 16-2 to close out the three-game series with a victory.
"Obviously, in the third game there's a lot to be happy about," Juneau coach Dave Massey said. "We're awfully young and I think there were a lot of first-game jitters. Sitka's a senior-laden team, especially up the middle.
"Sitka had never beaten us before, so these were pretty intense games. There have been a lot of close games in Sitka, but we always seemed to want it more."
"It was a big weekend for us," Sitka coach Mike Hagan said. "First time we've ever beaten Juneau; it just happened to be twice in one weekend. In the two games we did win, we played near-perfect ball. In the third game, we made too many mistakes to make against a team like Juneau. They're still the state champs. We're real fortunate."
In Friday's opener, Juneau sophomore Ashley Larson and Sitka's Kelsey Hagan locked up in a nice pitching duel. The Crimson Bears scored their only run of the game in the second inning as Juneau's only senior, Danielle Larson, tripled and scored on an RBI double by sophomore Nicole Bavard.
The Wolves finally scored in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Sidney Wyman doubled and scored off a sacrifice fly by Krista Ozawa. Sitka won it in the seventh inning when Teal Schlins hit her third triple of the game and scored an out later on a rundown after a grounder.
In Saturday's first game, Juneau fell behind early but rallied back to have a chance for a victory.
Sitka scored three runs in the first inning as Wyman and Ozawa hit back-to-back RBI doubles and Kelly Revard added an RBI single. Juneau answered with two runs in the second inning as Bavard tripled home Danielle Larson, then scored on a single by junior Rachel Barril.
The Wolves made it 5-2 in the third inning as Ozawa singled home Wyman and her courtesy runner, Abby Sparrowgrove, scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Revard.
Juneau scratched out a run in the fourth as freshman Hannah Barril hit a two-out double and scored on a single by freshman Torie Powers. Sitka made it 6-3 in the fifth inning as Wyman scored on an RBI single by Revard.
The Crimson Bears made it 6-5 in the sixth inning as Ashley Larson hit a two-run double, then took a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh inning as Hannah Barril hit a two-run triple to left center field. But Sitka won it in the bottom of the seventh as Wyman and Ozawa both walked and advanced on a passed ball. Revard reached on a fielder's choice where everyone was safe to score Wyman, then Teal Schlins reached on an error to score Sparrowgrove with the winning run.
"Sitka will be one of the better teams we face," Massey said. "I don't think there are many teams in Fairbanks that are better than them. This is the same Sitka team that beat (state runner-up) Service last year. They have most of their offense and defense back."
In Saturday's late game, Juneau finally broke out as the Crimson Bears scored five runs in the first inning, six in the third, a run in the fourth and four more in the fifth. Ashley Larson pitched and picked up the victory.
In the first inning, Ashley Larson had an RBI single, Bavard hit an RBI single, Rachel Barril hit an RBI double and Powers hit a two-run double. In the third inning, Powers hit a two-run single, sophomore Jordan Johnston hit an RBI single and Ashley Larson hit an RBI double for the key hits of the inning.
Bavard stole home for Juneau's run in the fourth inning, on a delayed double-steal. Ashley Larson and Danielle Larson both doubled in the fifth inning, and Bavard hit an RBI single.
"I think these are quality kids and we'll sort it out," Massey said. "We're so young, it'll take a little more time. They just have to get control of their emotions, relax and play their games."
Juneau is off this weekend, then heads north to Fairbanks to play all six Fairbanks-area teams on April 30-May 2.
In junior varsity action, Juneau posted a 2-1 record. The Juneau Red & Black team (C team) went 1-2 on the weekend.
CRIMSON BEARS 16, WOLVES 2
Saturday's second game from Sitka
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 506 14 - 16 20 2
SITKA 000 11 - 2 8 8
Juneau - A. Larson and Bavard. Sitka - R. Schlins, Palmer (4), Hagan (5) and Ozawa. WP - A. Larson, 1-1. LP - R. Schlins, 1-1. Sv - None. 2B - Juneau 5 (A. Larson 2, D. Larson 1, Johnston 1, Powers 1), Sitka 0. 3B - None. HR - None.
WOLVES 8, CRIMSON BEARS 7
Saturday's first game from Sitka
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 020 102 2 - 7 15 5
SITKA 302 010 2 - 8 10 2
(No outs when winning run scored)
Juneau - Powers, H. Barril (4) and Bavard. Sitka - Palmer, R. Schlins (4) and Ozawa. WP - R. Schlins, 1-0. LP - H. Barril, 0-1. Sv - None. 2B - Juneau 1 (A. Larson 1), Sitka 2 (Wyman 1, Ozawa 1). 3B - Juneau 3 (Bavard 1, H. Barril 1, Johnston 1), Sitka 0. HR - None.
WOLVES 2, CRIMSON BEARS 1
Friday's game from Sitka
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 010 000 0 - 1 5 2
SITKA 000 001 1 - 2 5 0
(One out when winning run scored)
Juneau - A. Larson and Bavard. Sitka - Hagan and Ozawa. WP - Hagan, 1-0. LP - A. Larson, 0-1. Sv - None. 2B - Juneau 2 (D. Larson 1, Bavard 1), Sitka 1 (Wyman 1). 3B - Juneau 1 (D. Larson 1), Sitka 3 (T. Schlins 3). HR - None.