The whole season could be at stake this weekend as the Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team heads to Sitka for five games starting a 3 p.m. this afternoon when Juneau plays Ketchikan.
Win at least four of the games, and Juneau stands a decent chance of winning the lone Region V berth in this year's inaugural state tournament June 2-3 at Palmer. Win three or fewer, and those chances get microscopic.
``I'd say it's a make-it or break-it weekend,'' Juneau coach Jim Ayers said. ``If we can go 4-1 or 5-0, that puts us in the lead before we all head to Ketchikan (May 25-27 for the season's finale). But if Ketchikan has any kind of a lead after this weekend, it'll be awfully tough to win in Ketchikan.''
This weekend's action opens with Juneau vs. Ketchikan at 3 p.m. today, followed by Sitka vs. Ketchikan at 6 p.m. On Friday, Juneau plays Ketchikan at noon, Sitka plays Juneau at 3 p.m. and Sitka plays Ketchikan at 6 p.m. The weekend's action concludes Saturday with Juneau vs. Ketchikan at 3 p.m. and Juneau vs. Sitka at 6 p.m.
Two weeks ago, Juneau hosted the first round of Region V baseball play and Ketchikan emerged with a 3-2 record, Juneau went 2-2 and Sitka was 2-3. The teams have been idle since then, but Ayers said the time off was useful. He said the Crimson Bears worked on moving runners around the bases, and they worked on pitching and defense.
``I think the kids worked really hard,'' Ayers said. ``Joe Ayers and Dylan Hickey, the two youngest guys on the team, are leading us in hitting, both at .500 with nine RBIs between them. And John Blasco is also up there at about .350. But we've had too many guys dying on the base paths. You get down in our lineup and we've got a lot of guys hitting just a couple of bucks (about .200).''
Ayers said he plans to move a few people around in the lineup this weekend to see if he can find a more productive batting order. Blasco, who played designated hitter two weeks ago because of a bad shoulder, is healed and will return to his normal third base spot, which means Casey Walker will go to DH when he's not pitching instead of playing third base. Grady Treston, who is coming off a broken thumb three weeks ago, batted a few times two weeks ago and should see more action as he heals, including a possible return to the outfield.
But there were more problems than not moving runners for Juneau two weeks ago. Juneau's defense was spotty at times, and the errors and passed balls proved costly. Plus, Juneau's pitchers sometimes lost the plate and ended up walking too many batters. In one close loss, four of the five batters who walked ended up coming around to score.
``I don't think anybody's beat us yet,'' Ayers said. ``We lost two games, but it was because our defense was not holding runners. We worked on our pitching, both location and change of speed. It doesn't matter if you can throw 90 miles an hour if you can't get it over the plate. We also worked on our defense, both fielding and knowing where to throw the ball.''
Even though Juneau's pitching at times suffered, there were times when the pitchers threw well. Ayers said he'll most likely start junior Will Nicholas today.
``I think the real key is pitching,'' Ayers said. ``I think you need to have at least five decent pitchers the way our league is set up.''