Now that the Juneau-Douglas High School softball team has clinched a berth in the state tournament, one would think that the pressure would be off this weekend as the Crimson Bears head to Sitka this weekend to wrap up the regular season.
"I think there will be more pressure," Juneau senior pitcher Rae Walker said about this weekend's trip, where the Crimson Bears varsity squad will play four games. "They'll have their own umpires, because they (the Sitka Wolves) think ours are biased. We want to beat 'em and finish it. We can't let them think they can beat us. It kind of scared us when they beat Service, because we'd never beat Service."
The Crimson Bears varsity (15-1 overall, 8-0 in Region V) will open play at 2 p.m. Thursday against Sitka (10-6 overall, 2-6 in Region V) at Sitka's Blatchley Middle School. Juneau plays Ketchikan (5-10 overall, 2-6 in Region V) at 4 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, Juneau closes out the regular season against Ketchikan at 11:30 a.m. and Sitka at 1 p.m. The Sitka and Ketchikan varsity teams play each other at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, 5:30 p.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"I don't think there will be as much pressure," Juneau head coach Kari Monagle said. "We're such a complete team. This gives us a little bit of room to try some new things. But we don't want for our last series to not go well."
"We can work on the things we need to," Juneau senior third baseman Kynde Baun said. "I think we have a real good chance at state. I don't think we'll have a problem this weekend."
The Crimson Bears won all five of their games during last weekend's homestand at Melvin Park, with four of those games being decided early because of the 10-run mercy rule.
"We're all feeling pretty good," Monagle said. "We've got a variety of players who are saying, 'Ah, I didn't do as well as I wanted,' but they all did what I asked them to. This was the first time we had a series in the rain, and our pitchers did a great job of staying in the game."
Juneau has now won 10 games in a row, including five of six games in Anchorage two weekends ago. That Anchorage trip included Juneau's first-ever regular-season victory over the two-time defending state champion Service Cougars. The only previous time Juneau had beaten Service was in the 1999 state championship game. Juneau's only loss this season was to Chugiak in a game Juneau led until some late errors gave it away.
"We did really good up last week," freshman pitcher Erika Lindsey said. "But coming down from Anchorage, with all those fast pitchers, it took us awhile to adjust. We have to keep trying. Anything can happen, but we're hoping for the best."
Juneau will also send two junior varsity teams to Sitka this weekend. The Juneau JV and Juneau R&B teams will both play four games each against two JV teams from Sitka, one JV team from Ketchikan and the Prince of Wales varsity squad.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.