The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team suffered their first two Southeast Conference losses over the weekend, but salvaged a split in doubleheaders against both Ketchikan and hosting Sitka to enter next week's Senior Night games atop the division's six-team pileup.
The Crimson Bears moved to 6-2 in the SEC and 7-3 overall in Alaska with the splits, holding a slim lead over second-place KayHi. Sitka is currently tied for third.
JDHS topped Sitka 9-5 in their lone Saturday game, using three multi-run homers and a sparkling relief-pitching effort from junior Aaron Cohen to take the victory.
Senior Sean Bavard provided the final margin, knocking out a three-run dinger in the top of the seventh to add padding to what had been a one-run cushion. Bavard, who finished 2-for-3 at the plate, capped a three-hit, two-out rally from the Bears to secure the win.
Keath Flint and Dylan Baker each got ahold of two-run homers in the second and third innings, respectively. Both players finished with two hits in the game. Flint had three RBIs, while Baker scored three runs.
Junior starter James San Miguel had a "fantastic" start to the game, according to JDHS head coach Jaime Kissner, but allowed all four of his earned runs as he attempted to fight through leg cramps in the third inning. San Miguel was pulled after 3 ⅔ innings, having allowed four hits, three walks and striking out two.
"James was throwing extremely well and keeping the hitters off-balance," Kissner said. "He was locating his fastball and staying ahead in the counts. Unfortunately, he had to come out with those cramps."
Cohen, the team's usual closer, entered in the fourth and allowed just one hit, two walks and no earned runs in the final 3 ⅓ innings. He also struck out three.
"Aaron's a big strong kid and we definitely need to utilize him in our closer's role," Kissner said. "If we need him in these other situations, we're confident we can rely on him."
The Crimson Bears resume their schedule by hosting SEC rivals Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell in their lone homestand to end the regular season. The games will run Thursday-Sunday at Melvin Park.
KayHi 6, JDHS 5
Senior starter Beau Damien tossed one out short of a complete game, but a five-hit, six-run hiccup in the second inning marred an otherwise-stellar performance.
Damien ended with 10 hits, five earned runs and just one walk allowed, but picked up the loss.
"Besides that second inning he basically shut them down," Kissner said. "Beau did his job. We had some errors behind him and just didn't play well defensively to help him out."
Baker entered in the seventh to finish off the final batter.
The Bears' offense started the game on an ugly note, with a pair of runners thrown out in the first inning on "avoidable" mistakes, according to Kissner.
"From there, the mistakes just continued," the coach said. "They kept us from winning the game."
Flint and Cohen both finished 2-for-4 at the plate to lead the offense. Junior Vinnie Isturis was 2-for-3.
Sitka 7, JDHS 1
The Crimson Bears offense knocked out nine hits, plated just one run and allowed 11 walks as the hosts took their revenge from Thursday's 11-7 loss.
"With that many hits and one run, it's pretty bad odds," Kissner said. "Then, it's very difficult to beat a team when you hand them 11 free passes and 11 free chances to score."
Senior starter Sean Bavard lasted just two innings, allowing seven walks, three hits and five earned runs before leaving the game with a bothered shoulder.
Junior Jamie Daniel entered in relief for the next four innings, allowing four walks, two hits and one earned run, while striking out two. Senior Corey Mahar tossed the final 1-2-3 inning.
"On the road, if you can come out with a series split, that's key," Kissner said. "We just need to win out at home."
Cohen led the offense with a 3-for-3 performance, while Isturis went 2-for-4 in support.
Senior center fielder Hunter Mallinger did provide a bright spot for the Bears, hanging on to a deep fly ball while crashing full-speed into the fence.
"Hunter's probably one of the hardest-working kids on the team and that shows his character," Kissner said. "We were concerned for his safety at first, but going head-first into a wall down 7-1 ... hopefully that carries over with his teammates in the next couple of weeks."