Several Juneau-Douglas junior and senior baseball players were on the varsity team as sophomores in 2008, the same year the Crimson Bears won their last state baseball championship.
The current crop of Bears hope that experience pays off in 2010, with a loaded lineup that plans on crossing the plate and doing it often.
"I think we have a pretty solid team. This is pretty much the same exact team we had when I was 14, except for (current) sophomores Ryan Kelly and Lance Ibesate," senior co-captain Dylan Baker said. "Our lineup is solid, we all can hit - there's no doubt about that. Probably the best thing about us is our hitting. One through five, we all have power and can all hit home runs. And when it gets to the back (of the lineup), those guys are all good contact hitters.
He said the team has expectations of making state.
First-year manager Steve Bavard said the collective experience on the 2010 Bears hopefully will pay big dividends.
"Some of these guys have been on varsity since their sophomore year," he said. "At least six of the seven seniors were on the varsity as sophomores, and some were on as freshmen."
Bavard said this year's edition will have balance in spades, beginning with its lineup.
The Bears will bat Baker leadoff and Jamie Daniel No. 2 if he's healthy. If not, Vinny Isturis will fill in, Bavard said. Aaron Cohen will hold down the No. 3 spot with Alex DeRocher batting cleanup. Isturis will generally bat fifth, followed by a mix-mash of who's health and who will play that day.
Bavard said he can either let his guys swing away or employ small ball tactics.
"We're very flexible with this group," he said. "They've been together since Little League, and they've played multiple positions. We can play small ball, and we actually executed a (suicide) squeeze play down in Arizona that looked like we knew what we were doing. We're not really fast, but we have a couple guys who are fast."
JDHS also should be good defensively. With 16 players on the roster this year, the bench will be deep, though injuries have been a problem of late.
The Bears' infield will include sophomore Lance Ibesate, senior shortstop Vincent Isturis, junior Brendan Daugherty and Baker. Senior Keith Flint will man first base.
"Lance has got some great hands and between him, Vinny, Keith, Daugherty and Baker, they'll be the core," Bavard said.
Cohen will see the majority of innings behind the plate.
"He's very talented and a four-year starter here," Bavard said. "He's a great power hitter and he's been catching since his sophomore year. The only time he doesn't start behind the plate is when he's pitching."
In the outfield, Jamie Daniel will start in center, DeRocher in left and either Dominic Holloway or Justin Brooks in right.
"Jamie has played center his whole career, he's a lefty and he's got good wheels out there," Bavard said. "DeRocher will be an icon out there (in left). Dominic is a senior and Brooks runs like a 4.3-40 or something, and is a great athlete. But there are six outfielders for three positions and we'll get them all some playing time."
Bavard likes the quality of arms he can throw at opposing hitters. Nine of the 16 varsity players could see innings on the hill.
"We have Baker, who can probably peg 90 (mph) on a good day," he said. "Miles (Bedford) is a junior but he broke his collar bone, so we'll see what happens with him. He might make it back if all the stars line up. And we have Jamie Daniel, who's a lefty. Aaron, our catcher, can pitch and throws high-80s with a nice curveball. We brought Vinny in for his first year and he's going to get some time on the mound. Damon Ludwig is another lefty, and Alex Campbell can pitch."
Baker and Bavard said the only problem has been control, with JDHS pitchers giving too many free passes on their spring break trip to Arizona, where they went 0-6.
"We struggled down South by walking too many guys, but it was just from not pitching in game situations yet," Bavard said. "Everything was up and away, but we've cured that since then."
He said the region will be a battle between its four teams -JDHS, Thunder Mountain, Ketchikan and Sitka.
"Sitka and Ketchikan are always tough," he said. "Thunder Mountain, it's their first year, but anybody can beat anybody on any given day, so we're not going to write them off and say they're no good. They went to Wrangell and won two games, so they can probably take on any of us."
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