High School softball fans in Juneau have a smorgasbord of games to choose from this weekend.
Beginning at 11 a.m. today, nine varsity, junior varsity and middle school teams from Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island will play 23 games ending Saturday evening.
The defending state champion Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears host Ketchikan at 5 p.m. tonight under the lights at Melvin Park. Juneau meets Sitka at 5 p.m. and Ketchikan at 7:30 both Friday and Saturday at Melvin Park. (Please see Sports Around Juneau on Page 10 for full schedule of games).
Wednesday evening the Crimson Bears held a late practice to get a feel for playing under the lights.
``I've played under the lights in Texas, but it was 70 degrees,'' said center fielder Angie Kemp, who competed with an Alaska all-star team along with several other Crimson Bears last July. ``It's cool playing under the lights. That's gonna be bomb. It's cold and fun.''
Two weeks ago the Crimson Bears (3-1) swept Sitka by scores of 15-0 and 7-1 and split with Ketchikan, winning 15-2 after a 5-3 loss.
Juneau hasn't played since. Last weekend Delta Junction was scheduled to play in Juneau but canceled.
``Everyone is really anxious,'' said senior third baseman Darbee Anderson. ``It's taken a lot of restraint in practice. We just want to play.
In Ketchikan (2-2), Juneau faces one of the few teams that can match it in pitching power. Senior Aleisha Filyaw pitched Ketchikan's win but a line drive struck her right (pitching) wrist, forcing her to leave the game in the fifth inning. Ketchikan coach Joe Austin said Filyaw will pitch this weekend.
``It's still sore,'' Austin said. ``It's not 100 percent.''
When Filyaw left the game, senior Melissa Leary, normally a starter in the outfield, came in to shut down Juneau in the sixth to secure the win.
Austin said not including Filyaw, he has three or four pitchers he can turn to to throw strikes. Sophomores Zeta Moss and Angela Campbell fill out the rotation, while freshman Kelsey Jones and sophomore Brandyce Nelson can also step in.
``With Aleisha on the mound, I feel we can be play with any team in the state,'' Austin said. ``Pitching is the great equalizer, and we have it.''
The Crimson Bears are no slouches when it comes to pitching. Even without junior ace Nicole Adair, who'll likely miss most of the season after shoulder surgery, Juneau throws a potent 1-2 combo of experienced junior Aubrey Alt and fiery sophomore Andrea Walker.
Alt dueled Filyaw in Juneau's lone loss and came back to defeat Sitka the next day. Alt and Adair have been pitching together since grade school, and Alt wasn't used to losing.
``After that (the loss) I needed some time to be alone to be angry about the loss,'' Alt said. ``I take losses really personally.''
Juneau coach Steve Squires said freshman Stephanie Heard may step up from the junior varsity to pitch this weekend.
Ketchikan is a youthful team, with just two seniors and one junior versus eight sophomores and one freshman, Austin said.
``We're very young but we're aggressive,'' Austin said.
Sitka (1-3) likewise is a young team. The Wolves just converted their program from slow-pitch to fast-pitch four years ago, said coach Joe Haggen.
``We haven't developed fully as a team,'' said Haggen, who starts eight to nine freshman and sophomores. ``We're a little behind Ketchikan and Juneau. But we feel we have ladies who have made a commitment to play and we have a bright future ahead of us.''
Haggen said the middle school program has also converted to fast-pitch, ensuring some more experienced arms and bats by high school.
Haggen listed freshman shortstop Sidney Wyman, sophomore left fielder Mindy Jacoby and twins Kim Uddipa (utility infielder) and Kate Uddipa (center field) as his players to watch.
This weekend's games are the only home contests of the season for the Crimson Bears. Juneau travels to Anchorage for games May 3-6, then the Southeast tournament begins in Ketchikan May 11-13.
``Then hopefully, state,'' Squires said. ``That's it. Short and sweet.''