Things are looking pretty good for the Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team heading into its only homestand of the season tonight at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Play begins tonight at 6 p.m. against Ketchikan in a game that could clinch a second-straight state tournament berth for the Crimson Bears with a win.
The Bears play Sitka at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Ketchikan at 6 p.m. Friday and finish the regular season against Sitka at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Juneau found success on the road this season, piling up an 8-2 record and mounting a considerable lead over southeast rivals Sitka (4-5) and Ketchikan (2-7). One win by the Bears or a loss by Sitka in any of this week's games will give Juneau the Southeast championship and a state berth.
"If they can just go out and play baseball, they're going to take themselves to a state championship game," head coach Jim Ayers said. "The real issue now is to make these guys understand at this level that they need to go out and just play baseball and not the team."
The Crimson Bears have benefited from timely hitting, solid defense and fantastic pitching en route to outscoring their opponents 85-48 this season. Until last Saturday's 10-8 loss to Ketchikan, Juneau won six straight games and gave up just 17 runs in that stretch.
Four Bear pitchers hold perfect records, led by Junior right-hander Brett Fairchild with a 3-0 record in two starts and a relief appearance. He struck out 10 Ketchikan batters in a 5-3 win on May 4 and followed it up with a no-hitter last Friday in against Ketchikan in a 10-0 win. He was just one walk and one error away from a perfect game.
"I was thinking about the perfect game," Fairchild said. "I knew I had it going but you can't expect that. I was going for the win."
"He kept the ball inside," senior catcher Brian Thatcher said. "He kept jamming them and the defense was good."
Senior Will Nicholas is 2-0 in three starts and one relief appearance and junior Dylan Hickey has also compiled a 2-0 record in three starts. Sophomore Zach Kohan gave a solid performance but recorded a no decision in a 7-4 win over Ketchikan on May 5.
Junior Greg Smith and sophomore Evan Scandling have pitched well out of the bullpen. Smith (1-0) recorded Juneau's first win of the season but Scandling (0-2), even with good pitching, came upon some hard luck and took Juneau's only losses of the season. Junior Kalen Meek and sophomore Kyle Lanz have also contributed out of the bullpen.
From the batter's box, Hickey has made the biggest impact, hammering four homers and five doubles to lead Juneau in both categories. Fairchild and senior Mike Rader each have two home runs, including a grand slam by Rader in the no-hit victory over Sitka on Friday. Scandling and junior C.J. Corso have also gone yard for the Crimson Bears.
Sophomore Matt Freeman follows Hickey with three doubles, while Fairchild and sophomore Joe Ayers have two doubles each. Sophomore Bud Baun, junior Jake Dutton, Kohan and Scandling have also contributed doubles.
"We scored a lot of two-out runs," assistant coach Mark Hickey said. "Easily half of our runs have come with two outs."
Hickey will take the mound tonight against Ketchikan and Will Nicholas will get the start against Sitka on Thursday.
"Dylan (Hickey) is one of the most dominant baseball players in Southeast Alaska," Jim Ayers said. "He owns the game right now. It's real inspiring to the young guys. He's earned the right to win the game."
The Crimson Bear junior varsity will also be in action this week, playing four games over four days. They begin today against Ketchikan JV at 2 p.m., followed by a double-header against Sitka JV on Friday starting at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Juneau JV ends its season against Ketchikan JV at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Ketchikan and Sitka also will play each other three times, beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday. All Juneau varsity games will be broadcast on KINY-AM 800.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.