The Kayhi baseball team started its conference season with two wins over Thunder Mountain at Norman Walker Field Saturday, including a resounding 17-0 thumping of the Falcons in the second game of a doubleheader.
But if the Kings remember one thing from last year, it's that regular-season games don't mean much.
"These games don't really mean anything, and we learned that last year," Kayhi co-coach Andy Berntson said. "There's nothing wrong with winning. Everybody likes winning and it's easy to have fun when you're winning.
"But we're not going to get too up over wins or too down over losses. There's just no point in it."
In 2009, Kayhi struggled through a disappointing regular season before shifting gears and winning the Southeast Conference tournament. That earned the Kings a spot in the state tournament, where they won their first-round game and came within a couple of defensive miscues of playing for the state title before finishing fifth.
Through the first two series of 2010, Kayhi has been following a different script.
The Kings went 4-0 against Wasilla and Thunde Mountain this weekend, building on a dominant season-opening five-game sweep of West Valley April 15-17 to improve to 9-0.
In all nine games, Kayhi has displayed eye-popping ability at the plate. The Kings have hit 19 home runs this season and scored 117 runs, an average of 2.1 homers and 13 runs per game. Kayhi scored 59 runs against Wasilla and Thunder Mountain, including a 20-run outburst against the Warriors in cold, rainy weather Friday.
"We can't always depend on hitting like this, but it's nice," junior Jesse Lindgren said with a laugh Saturday.
Kayhi's pitching also has showed signs of dominance, particularly against ThunderMountain.
Kayhi starting pitcher Erik Ruaro surrendered only one run to the Falcons in the first half of Saturday's doubleheader, then got plenty of run support as Lindgren went 3-for-4 with one home run - his third of the weekend - and four RBIs to help Kayhi to an 11-1 win. In the second game, Lindgren and junior Kenny Swaim combined to toss five shutout innings as Kayhi won easily.
Senior Simon Brooks started the series by holding Wasilla to one unearned run in six innings Thursday.
"I think as the year goes on, you're going to see more consistency from the pitchers," Berntson said. "Every time they go out, they're throwing a little bit better."
Lindgren credited the Kayhi bats.
"It's nice, as a pitcher, to have some runs up on the board," Lindgren said. "It takes some stress off, and you're just not thinking as much."
Kayhi's wins over Thunder Mountain kicked off a conference season schedule that will see the Kings host Juneau-Douglas for a series that starts Thursday, then travel to Juneau for a series May 13-15 and, finally, host Sitka May 20-22. The conference tournament starts in Sitka May 27, and a second consecutive state tournament berth is on the line for Kayhi.
That's when games will start carrying added weight. But even if Kayhi is downplaying the significance of these early-season wins, Wasilla coach Myrl Thompson saw enough in two games to heap praise on the Kings.
"Ketchikan is a good team. Great hitters, great fielders, well coached... It's tough to play against that," Thompson said. "You have to wonder how you're going to deal with these guys."
Notes from Thunder Mountain coach Bill McCauley
After a difficult weekend against fierce competition, McCauley said he's proud of the way his kids are handling themselves through this learning experience.
"We've got a bunch of tough, young guys on this team," he said. "The last game got away from us because we lost team focus. The fact is, they're not used to varsity games at all, let alone a doubleheader against a really good team.
"Of course I'm disappointed with the loss, but I'm very proud that the kids hung in there and aren't intimidated," McCauley continued. "They want to go do it again."
He also said it is evident that his young squad of Falcons are improving with every week.
"I can tell you when we started throwing, we could barely throw and catch," McCauley said. "We've progressed tremendously, but there is a long way to go in a competitive varsity environment. But we're trying to get to the point to where we are competitive, and the kids are with us."
The Thunder Mountain baseball team will head to Sitka for a series beginning Thursday.
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