If softball is your thing, then this weekend is for you. And you even get an early Thursday start at Melvin Park. And admission is free.
Kicking off the festivities tonight is a varsity nonconference matchup between Juneau-Douglas and Sitka at 7:30, preceded by a Thunder Mountain and West Valley JV tilt.
But that's just the appetizer. Friday, the floodgates open.
The JV teams open the morning at 8:30, and the varsity takes over the field at 1 p.m. for a pair of nonconference games between Sitka and TMHS, followed by a Railbelt Conference doubleheader between JDHS and West Valley, with the first pitch coming at 5 p.m.
Saturday is a virtual free-for-all in the inaugural Juneau-Douglas Invitational Tournament, beginning at 9 a.m. with varsity play and lasting until after 6 p.m., when the JV teams close it out.
"It will be a fun tournament for early in the season, and it's a chance to play some games," JDHS manager Dave Massey said. "In my opinion, the start and ending of games is the most important, so it will give us a chance to get three games in on Saturday and some experience.
"Hopefully, around SATs and prom, we can squeeze this thing in."
Each game on Saturday is limited to 65 minutes, with whomever is on top at the time being declared the winner. Some games could even result in a tie, which, for purists, is like "kissing your sister," Massey quipped.
"This is a round-robbintournament. The games are limited to 65 minutes apiece, and it's like an icebreaker kind of deal," Massey said. "It's a drop-dead at the end of 65 minutes. There are no extra innings or tie-breakers - it's done."
Massey said West Valley is always talented and will be a challenge.
"They have good teams up there and (West Valley) is one of the better programs in Fairbanks," he said. "They have some good athletes, and it just depends on their pitching every year. He always has kids that hit well and are good fielders. I'm looking forward to seeing how good they are this year."
Sitka will have a brand-new manager to unveil, assistant boys' basketball coach Bob Potrzuski.
"Sitka has a new coach and I haven't seen his coaching style," Massey said. "But they have a lot of good players coming back and a good pitcher, so I expect them to be pretty good."
The Falcons are, as usual, the unknown. In their first year of play, Thunder Mountain will likely be young and inexperienced, especially early on.
"(TMHS coach Jorge Cordero) has got the better part of 30 girls out this year, which is more than our program has," Massey said. "I'm sure that he and his coaching staff are busy teaching fundamentals, and I'm sure that they have a lot of teaching and instructing going on. They have a lot of patience and from what we've seen, the girls are getting better. They're doing a good job.
"If they have enough pitching to go around, they'll be OK."
JDHS senior pitcher/second baseman Jennifer Nelson expects to see good competition this weekend. She said the Bears have been focusing large chunks of practice lately on hitting and pitching.
"We're excited about playing Thunder Mountain for the first time," she said. "We played West Valley last year and it was a really good game for everybody. Sitka is ... a very good team, and we had some close games with them last year. It will be great."
The weekend's full slate of games is listed on B2 in the "Around Town" schedule box.
Juneau-Douglas senior outfielder Krista Barril sends a pitch deep during softball practice on Tuesday at Melvin Park.
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