Sophomore second baseman C.J. Keys gets most of his action with the Juneau-Douglas High School junior varsity baseball team.
But on Saturday Keys got to play with the big boys, making the most of his varsity start by hitting two homers and scoring three runs as the Crimson Bears beat the Ketchikan Kings 8-3 to end a perfect four-game homestand. In Friday's game, Juneau beat the Sitka Wolves 12-4 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
"It felt great," Keys said of his first two varsity homers. "I was just going to be glad to come up to the varsity and play."
In other varsity action this weekend, Ketchikan swept two games from Sitka. The Kings won 10-7 on Friday as Russell Miller homered and Ben Voetberg scored three times. Ketchikan won again on Saturday, this time 10-1 as Voetberg scored three more runs and Braden Sharp had two.
Juneau's four victories this weekend (the Crimson Bears also won on Wednesday and Thursday) moved the Crimson Bears to the verge of clinching a berth in the state baseball tournament May 31 and June 1 at Palmer's Hermon Brothers Field. Juneau improved to 8-1 overall and in Region V after this weekend, while Ketchikan is 4-5 and Sitka is 2-8. The Crimson Bears can clinch the lone Region V berth at state with any combination of a Juneau victory or two Ketchikan losses during the May 22-25 series of games in Sitka. The Wolves have been eliminated from a chance at the state berth.
"We're still working on fine-tuning our game," Juneau pitcher-infielder Zach Kohan said. "We've still got work to do in Sitka."
Playing in a cold drizzle on Saturday, with breaks between innings to run a roller Squeegee over home plate, Juneau started out using small ball in the first inning. Joe Ayers reached first on a bunt single, stole second and took third on a sacrifice bunt by Evan Scandling. Then Juneau went to the long ball, as first baseman Dylan Hickey hit a two-run homer to left to make it 2-0.
"It was an inside fastball," said Hickey, who had minor surgery on both feet three weeks ago and had been battling a sore pitching arm. "We had a guy on first and I was just looking to lift the ball to the outfield to get him home. My swing's definitely improving. It helps to be healthy."
Ketchikan scored twice in the top of the second inning and threatened to score more. Miller doubled to lead off the inning, took third on a grounder to short, then, after Voetberg walked, the Kings used a delayed double steal to get Miller home and Voetberg to second. Jesse Zaugg singled Voetberg to third and Voetberg scored on an error. Zaugg took second on a passed ball, then went to third on an error during a pick-off play.
After Dennis Demmert walked, Juneau felt Ketchikan would try another delayed double steal. So Kohan made a pitchout throw that catcher Isaac Cadiente gunned back to Kohan instead of to second base, then Kohan threw to third baseman Greg Smith to get Zaugg out. That ended the inning with the score tied 2-2.
"That play helped a lot," said Kohan, who threw a no-hitter in his previous outing against Ketchikan a week ago. "They had the momentum."
Keys led off the bottom of the third with his first homer, a shot to center field that landed in a snowbank behind the fence.
"The first pitch he (Ketchikan pitcher Casey Bass) threw me was a curve, then he threw a fastball," Keys said. "I thought it was a fencer at first. On the second one, he hung a curve."
In the fifth inning, Keys led off with a single, took second on a fielder's choice by Evan Scandling where both runners were safe, then scored when Hickey reached on an error. Kohan walked to load the bases, then Brett Fairchild hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Scandling and Jake Dutton followed with a two-run double to score Hickey and Kohan's courtesy runner Ryan Gorle.
Ketchikan scored a run in the top of the sixth, as Bass singled and later scored on a single by Braden Sharp. But Juneau answered in the bottom of the inning as Keys hit a one-out homer to left for the game's final score.
"After the first couple of innings, it was harder," Kohan said of the pitching conditions. "We'd get wet balls, and when we'd throw it back to the ump to get a new one it was just as wet. I was leaving my curveball up, but I worked on that. Ketchikan played us tough."
In Friday's victory over Sitka, the Crimson Bears celebrated Senior Night as all six seniors pitched, caught or started in the infield.
Sitka took a 1-0 lead in the first as Will Warden doubled, took third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch by starter Kalen Meek.
Juneau answered with three runs in the bottom of the first. Ayers walked, stole second and scored when Scandling reached on an error. Scandling took second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball, then scored when Kohan reached on an error. Kohan scored on a double by Dutton.
The Crimson Bears added six runs in the second inning as Meek walked, Smith singled and Ayers hit a two-run double to start the rally. Scandling, Hickey, Kohan and Brett Fairchild followed with four consecutive singles up the middle, and C.J. Corso drove in the final run with a ground out.
But after that rally, Sitka pitcher George Howard settled down. Sitka scored a run in the fourth to make it 9-2 as David Gauthier walked and later scored on a ground out by Jon Taylor. Juneau countered in the bottom of the fourth as Hickey walked and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Corso.
Sitka closed the gap to 10-4 with two runs in the top of the fifth as Howard walked, stole second and scored when Warden reached on an error. Warden scored later on a wild pitch and Sitka had runners on first and third when Meek finally got out of the jam. Juneau scored once in the fifth as Ayers was hit by a pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly from Hickey. Corso scored in the sixth inning as he singled and Ayers drove him home with a sacrifice fly.
"We were able to get our seniors in there and have some fun," Corso said. "We've still got to take these games seriously. You never expect to 10-run somebody, and after we saw what they (the Wolves) did against Ketchikan (an eight-run rally in the seventh inning to win 11-10 on Thursday), we know anybody can win in this league."
Juneau's varsity team is off this coming weekend, then heads to Sitka for five Region V games May 22-25 to close out the regular season.
In junior varsity action on Saturday, Juneau's JV team beat Ketchikan's JV 9-1 as Keys scored twice, Jordan Davis hit a triple and scored twice, Kyle Lanz and Charles Whisner both had two RBIs, Ryan Rud doubled, while Wil Ridgeway and Jordan Gray combined to pitch a nine-hitter. In other JV action, the Sitka JV beat the Prince of Wales varsity 7-2 on Saturday, while on Friday, Ketchikan's JV edged Sitka's JV 4-3 and Ketchikan's JV blanked POW's varsity 11-0.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CRIMSON BEARS 8, KINGS 3
Saturday's varsity game from Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
KETCHIKAN 020 001 0 -- 3 4 1
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 201 041 x -- 8 7 2
Ketchikan -- Bass and Sharp. Juneau-Douglas -- Kohan, Scandling (6) and Cadiente, Smith (6). WP -- Kohan, 2-0. LP -- Bass. Sv -- Scandling (1). 2B -- Ketchikan 1 (Miller 1), Juneau-Douglas 1 (Dutton 1). 3B -- None. HR -- Ketchikan 0, Juneau-Douglas 3 (Keys 2, Hickey 1).
CRIMSON BEARS 12, WOLVES 4
Friday's varsity game from Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
SITKA 100 120 0 -- 4 7 5
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 360 111 x -- 12 12 1
Sitka -- Howard and Stockel. Juneau-Douglas -- Meek, Lanz (6) and Dutton, Smith (3), Cadiente (4). WP -- Meek, 2-0. LP -- Howard. Sv -- None. 2B -- Sitka 1 (Warden 1), Juneau-Douglas 2 (Dutton 1, Ayers 1). 3B -- None. HR -- None.