The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team learned a valuable lesson during its season-opening weekend in Ketchikan.
Brimming with overconfidence, the Crimson Bears entered last weekend thinking they could go undefeated and that none of the other Southeast teams were able to compete with them. So, in the season's first game, Juneau committed four errors and lost to Ketchikan 12-7 to end the dreams of an unbeaten season.
Juneau rebounded to win the next four games over Sitka and Ketchikan by a combined score of 41-7, with junior Zach Kohan throwing a no-hitter in Juneau's rematch with Ketchikan. But the lessons from the loss are still with the Crimson Bears, who host the Wolves and Kings this weekend at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
"We won as a team and we lost as a team, so you really can't blame one player for the loss," senior outfielder Jake Dutton said. "I think we feel more confidence in ourselves, especially after we were done with the bull of that first game. We really got it together, and Zach throwing that no-hitter was amazing. You can learn 10 times more from a loss."
"We just showed we could come back," Kohan said. "We just needed to slow things down. I think the whole team learned a lesson. We know what it's like to lose to Ketchikan, and it's not a good feeling.'
For the weekend, including the loss, Juneau's pitchers had a team ERA of 2.1 (based on seven-inning games instead of nine) and the team batted .384, head coach Jim Ayers said. Joe Ayers, Kohan and Dylan Hickey all hit over .400 for the weekend and the team had over 60 hits in five games.
"After what a couple of the guys said, I think we were a little overconfident, I thought, going in,' Jim Ayers said. "I think the guys learned a lot. They decided what they wanted to do was play some baseball, and I was very impressed with the way they reacted. It was a great lesson for life. You can get overconfident and lose, but then are you going to pout about it or are you going to go to work. I was pleased with the life lesson they learned, and the way they came back.'
Juneau (4-1 overall) plays Sitka (1-4) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and at 6 p.m. Friday. The Crimson Bears play Ketchikan (2-2) at 6 p.m. on Thursday and 4 p.m. on Saturday. Sitka and Ketchikan play each other at 3 p.m. on Thursday, at 3 p.m. on Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday in varsity action this weekend. A complete schedule, including junior varsity games, for Juneau's only home games of the season can be found in Sports in Juneau.
"We're ready to play in front of the home crowd,' said Kohan, who struck out seven batters and walked two in his no-hitter while going 4-for-4 at the plate with three doubles, three runs and three RBIs.
Kohan said he'd been a fastball-curveball pitcher before, but he added a change-up during his no-hitter, a 10-1 victory where the lone Ketchikan run scored on an error. The original plan was for Hickey to relieve Kohan in the fifth inning, but Juneau's coaches left Kohan in while the no-hitter was still going with Hickey warming up to be ready in case he faltered. Hickey threw a three-hitter against Sitka the next day.
"By far, it's the best I've thrown,' Kohan said. "Everything was working, and my whole defense has been amazing. The defense and the hitting were there for me. When I go into a game I'm pitching, I don't focus on my hitting. My doubles were all toward centerfield, and one bounced over the fence and was a ground-rule double. It was a good feeling to have Dylan behind me, ready to back me up.'
Kohan said he knew he had a no-hitter going, and he credited shortstop Joe Ayers with making an opportunistic defensive play to save it. In the fourth inning, Ketchikan's Braden Sharp started to steal second base so Ayers drifted over toward the bag. That put him in position to make a leaping catch of a line drive up the middle by Caleb Mickel, a sure hit had Ayers been in his normal position.
"Every time the ball was hit, I was thinking, Uh, oh,'' Kohan said.
"It's not like we had good defense or anything, it was all him,' said senior C.J. Corso, who homered and had three RBIs in Kohan's no-hitter. "That got us all on a roll. It will be better to be on home turf. Ketchikan is a rough place to play. We are a little humbled.'
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.