The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team had its chances to win Wednesday's season-opening game against the Ketchikan Kings at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
But in the end, it was too much of what Juneau second baseman-first baseman Dylan Hickey called the ``wrong time and the wrong place'' for the Crimson Bears. Juneau rallied in the seventh and final inning, and even had the game-tying run at the plate, but left fielder Mike Rader lined out to short to end the game with Juneau on the short end of a 7-4 score.
However, the loss could be traced back to the first inning. That's when Juneau gave up three runs in the top of the frame then couldn't answer with a score in the bottom of the inning, even though the Crimson Bears loaded the bases with one out.
``We have to score when we get in positions like that,'' said freshman shortstop Joe Ayers, whose solo homer in the third inning was Juneau's only score until the seventh inning.
``I felt pretty good for the most part, but it took an inning to get warmed up,'' said senior pitcher-third baseman Casey Walker, who took the loss for Juneau. ``We learned what the club can do, and the intensity rate will get better. We know we beat 'em, we just had a rough first inning. I'm confident we can beat them.''
Ketchikan, which was also playing its season-opener, drew five walks off Walker and four of those Kings came around to score runs.
``Those are going to kill me,'' Walker said. ``I don't think I had very many one-strike counts all game.''
In the first inning, Ketchikan's T.J. Milner singled with one out, Donald Munhoven walked, then both runners scored on a double by winning pitcher Ethan Berto. After a walk to catcher Richard McAlpin, Berto stole second then scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Brandon Nicholas to make it 3-0.
Juneau loaded the bases in the bottom of the first as designated hitter John Blasco and Ayers both singled, Hickey flew out to left and catcher Garrett Schoenberger singled. But the next two hitters popped out and grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
``That was pretty important. It helped,'' Berto said of Ketchikan's early lead and ability to keep Juneau from answering. ``We knew we had great defense behind us.''
Ketchikan added another run in the third inning as Munhoven walked with one out, then moved to second one out later when McAlpin reached on an error. Nicholas doubled to score Munhoven, but the throw from center fielder Kelly Pajinag (relayed through Ayers) beat McAlpin home to end the inning with Ketchikan up 4-0.
Ayers homered to lead off the third inning, and one out later Schoenberger sent a drive deep to right-center field that Braden Sharp was able to track down after a long run. But Juneau couldn't come up with another run to trail 4-1.
Ketchikan made it 6-1 in the fifth inning as Berto walked with two outs and McAlpin homered. The Kings added another run in the sixth off reliever Kent Mearig as Sharp doubled with one out, stole second and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alexis Pahang.
``I think we did pretty good. A lot of people expect us to be down this year because we lost a lot of players,'' McAlpin said of Ketchikan, which won last year's unofficial state invitational tournament. ``I just wanted to support my pitchers.''
It was 7-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning when second baseman Robb Thomas walked and took third on two wild pitches. Pinch hitter Brett Fairchild also walked and stole second, then Blasco's grounder to second scored Thomas and Ayers singled to score Fairchild. Ayers stole second, then Hickey singled to move him to third.
Berto was finally pulled after throwing 124 pitches, and Ayers scored when a pitch from reliever T.J. Milner got past McAlpin for a passed ball. Schoenberger walked, and both he and pinch runner Evan Tromble (who ran for Hickey) moved up a base when Milner's pick-off throw to second ended up in center field. But the rally fell short when Pajinag struck out and Rader lined to short.
``There was no pain, but I was tired at the end,'' Berto said. ``T.J. came in and clinched it.''
``We left a lot of people on base, but the whole game I felt we were playing well,'' Schoenberger said. ``We left feeling good.''
Juneau's varsity team is off tonight while Ketchikan and Sitka play two games at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. as action continues this weekend at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park (for a full schedule, including JV games, see Sports Around Juneau on Page 12). Sitka and Ketchikan play again at 3 p.m. Friday, with Juneau and Ketchikan playing at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the weekend concludes as Juneau hosts Sitka in a double-header at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
CRIMSON BEARS 4
Wednesday's game at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
KETCHIKAN301 021 0 - 7 7 1
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS001 000 3 - 4 8 2
Berto, Milner (7) and McAlpin; Walker, Mearig (5) and Schoenberger. W - Berto, 1-0. L - Walker, 0-1. Sv - Milner (1). 2B - Ketchikan: Berto, Nicholas, Sharp; Juneau: None. 3B - None. HR - Ketchikan: McAlpin (1); Juneau: Ayers (1).