It's been so long since the Juneau-Douglas High School softball team played a game that the Crimson Bears feel as if the season's starting over.
The Crimson Bears will host Prince of Wales for games today and Saturday at Melvin Park, then host Ketchikan for a three-game set of rare Monday and Tuesday games. Those will be Juneau's first games since the Crimson Bears traveled to Sitka for three games on April 16-17.
"Our schedule for games has been weird this year, and now we're playing on Monday and Tuesday," senior outfielder-third baseman Rachel Barril said. "We're excited to actually get some games. Practice is good to work on our skills, but it will be nice to get some games in."
"We've been out for two weeks now, but we've been having intrasquad games," junior third baseman Ilea Belcourt added. "I'm glad we're playing POW and then Ketchikan and then Sitka (May 21-22). We know how to start again."
This is the second lengthy gap in the season for the Crimson Bears (4-4 overall, 2-1 Region V), who started their season with five games at the Horizon Invitational, a 12-team tournament in Arizona on March 25-27. The Crimson Bears will play at least four games every week for the rest of the regular season, then, if they qualify, have a week off before traveling to Fairbanks for the state tournament on June 4-5.
Juneau head coach Dave Massey said the Crimson Bears have been able to make good use of their time off, but he'd rather the team's schedule had fewer gaps.
"In all, it's been a detriment not to play," Massey said. "But it's not like it's going to kill us. The girls are anxious to play."
While the players are longing to see someone besides their teammates in the other dugout - "I'm always ready to play games," sophomore pitcher-shortstop Hannah Barril said - the Crimson Bears did find some advantages to the long gaps in the schedule.
"It'll be nice to play, especially since we're at home," junior pitcher-first baseman Ashley Larson said. "In Sitka we really found some things we needed to work on and we've been practicing a lot. Even though some of us hit good, our hitting could have been better as a team. We're really working on game situations, like having runners at first and a coach bunt so we're more aggressive in our baserunning."
"It has been awhile since we've played, but after some series of games it's nice to have quite a bit of time to fix the mistakes," Hannah Barril said.
The Juneau junior varsity gets things started this weekend at 5 p.m. today when it hosts the Prince of Wales JV, then the varsity teams take the field at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Juneau and Prince of Wales varsity squads get things going at 1 p.m., then the JV teams play a doubleheader at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Ketchikan, which plays at Sitka this weekend, will play two JV games against Juneau at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday before its varsity squad takes on the Crimson Bears at 7 p.m. On Tuesday, the JV teams play at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., then the varsity squads take the field for a doubleheader with games at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"Prince of Wales still has Stacia Miller, and she did a good job pitching against us last year," Massey said. "(Ketchikan's) Chelsey May pitched a couple of good games against us and she's tough if she's on."
Prince of Wales - a combined team for Craig and Klawock high schools - is 0-6 overall and in region this season, with all of its losses coming to Ketchikan (6-0 overall and region). POW travels to Sitka (5-2 overall, 1-2 region) for games on Monday and Tuesday.
On April 16-17 in Ketchikan, the Kings edged POW 3-2 and 5-4 before winning the series finale 11-1. Last weekend in Craig, Ketchikan blew out POW 27-2 in Friday's opener but Prince of Wales played the Kings tougher in the nightcap before losing 10-6. On Saturday, Ketchikan was missing several upperclassmen because of its prom but still won 11-7 in the series finale.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.