The Juneau-Douglas High School softball team finally got some home-cooking this weekend, sweeping Craig-Prince of Wales in Juneau's first home games at Melvin Park in 53 weeks.
The defending state champion Crimson Bears didn't play their best game as they beat Craig-Prince of Wales 8-1 on Friday, but by Saturday's rematch the Bears were firing on all cylinders as they won 15-0 in a mercy-rule game called in the bottom of the third inning.
"It actually felt better (to be home)," Juneau sophomore shortstop-center fielder Jordan Johnston said. "Our ground is more stable."
"At some of the parks, your feet sink this deep (holds fingers about two inches apart) and you slide on the gravel," freshman second baseman-pitcher Torie Powers added.
The Crimson Bears (14-2 overall, 8-2 in Region V) had some jitters in Friday's home opener, committing two first-inning errors that allowed Craig-Prince of Wales to take a 1-0 lead as Shona Pierce singled, took third on an error and scored on another error. Things could have been worse, but Juneau settled down and erased two base-runners with plays at the plate.
"We were just hoping to be able to prolong the inning," said Pierce, who attends Craig High School where the vast majority of the Craig-Prince of Wales players go to school (the others attend Klawock).
After getting out of that inning, Juneau responded with a run in the bottom of the first as Johnston singled, took second on a ground out and scored on a double-error when a catcher's throw to the pitcher got past everybody and rolled to the fence.
Juneau sophomore pitcher Ashley Larson (6-1) also picked things up on the mound, as she faced just 21 batters over the next six innings while striking out 12. Larson said she warmed up with all of her six pitches before the game, but during Friday's game she relied on a fastball, a curve-dropball and a knuckleball as her main pitches.
"It was just some mental errors, everyone has them," Larson said of the first inning. "Our bats came out after that. Our bats weren't the best, but we got it done. Other than the first inning, we were perfect on defense."
"We had solid pitching and solid defense," added senior first baseman-outfielder Danielle Larson, Ashley's older sister. "I think we were nervous."
Juneau threatened, but didn't score in the second inning as sophomore Nicole Bavard tripled to lead off the inning and, one out later, the Crimson Bears loaded the bases. But Craig-Prince of Wales escaped the jam without any runs scoring.
But the runs started coming in the third inning, with some help by errors from Craig-Prince of Wales. Danielle Larson led off the inning with a pop to left field that went off the fielder's glove and to the fence while Larson scored on the four-base error. The next hitter, Ashley Larson, repeated the play, this time to center field and for a three-base error. Courtesy runner Dana Flansaas scored on a single by sophomore Ilea Belcourt to give the Crimson Bears a 3-1 lead.
Juneau added two more runs in the fourth inning as Powers beat out a bunt to lead things off, then scored when the throw went to the fence in right for a three-base error. Johnston singled, but escaped a rundown between first and second on another error, then scored as Ashley Larson beat out a bunt when the throw was dropped at first.
"I saw my foot hit the bag and saw the throw get by in my peripheral vision," Powers said. "The right fielder wasn't backing up, so I kept going."
The Crimson Bears added three runs in the sixth as Johnston hit a one-out hustle double, beating out a slow throw to the infield, then sophomore Melissa White doubled down the line to score Johnston. Danielle Larson walked and both White and Larson pulled off a double-steal, then Ashley Larson singled the two runners home.
"I'm a cautious base runner, but I'll take advantage of anything I can," Johnston said. "My double should have been a single."
"I was just booking it," White said. "Dave (Juneau coach Dave Massey) said 'Go' so I was going as fast as I could."
In Saturday's game, Powers (4-1) struck out three and faced 12 batters in three innings.
It was Power's first pitching performance at home, and her nerves showed a little. She gave up two hits in the first inning, but just one, a double to Shannon Webb, in the final two. Webb tried to stretch her left-field drive into a triple and was thrown out at third with a nice relay - from leftfielder Danielle Larson to Johnston at short to Belcourt at third.
"I was shaking," Powers said of the first inning. "In the second inning, I calmed down."
"I didn't worry about striking out batters," she said. "I knew my defense was there for me, and that helped me out a lot."
Her offense was there too. The Crimson Bears batted through the order in the first inning, as the first six batters reached base safely. Ashley Larson had a two-run single, and the Crimson Bears led 6-0 at the end of the inning. The last three runs were unearned.
Juneau knocked Craig-Prince of Wales starter Stacia Miller out of the game after 1 1/3 innings. She was replaced by catcher Heather Douville.
The Crimson Bears scored eight runs in the second inning on eight hits. Johnston and Danielle Larson doubled. Freshman Alycia Cox smacked a three-run triple over leftfielder Randy Jenkins' head.
The game was called with two outs in the third. Douville walked Johnston with the bases loaded, and Nicole Bavard scored the Bears' 15th run.
"P.O.W. is a good team," Juneau coach Dave Massey said. "They had to be real tired after playing six games in two days. I'd be tired, and I'm just the coach."
All nine Juneau starters scored at least once and reached base safely at least once. Danielle Larson was 3-for-3 and scored twice. Bavard scored three runs.
"We've been trying not to swing at a lot of high pitches," Powers said. "If you swing at a high pitch, you have to do 10 pushups. So we've been trying to hit more liners."
"We've been telling them to lay off the high stuff and wait for pitches that are belt-high and drive it," Massey said. "They really did that tonight.
Craig-Prince of Wales is one of the state's first co-op teams and this is its first year playing the varsity teams in Southeast. Craig-Prince of Wales (1-10 overall, 1-10 Region V) played junior varsity teams last year.
"It's been difficult," Pierce said. "The pitchers are a whole lot faster and the teams work better together."
"It's been a big step after playing on that JV circuit," Craig-Prince of Wales coach Ralph Mackie added. "We've been pretty competitive in most of the games we've been in."
In Friday's other games, the Juneau JV beat Craig-Prince of Wales 12-5 while Craig-Prince of Wales beat the Juneau Red and Black team 7-2. On Saturday, the Juneau JV team won 8-1 and the Red and Black team won 13-5.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Korry Keeker can be reached at email@example.com.
CRIMSON BEARS 15, CRAIG-POW 0
Saturday's game from Melvin Park
CRAIG-PRINCE OF WALES 000 - 0 0 3
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 681 - 15 12 1
(Game called after three innings, 15-run rule)
Craig-Prince of Wales - Miller, Douville (2) and Douville, Kampnich (2). Juneau-Douglas - Powers and Bavard. WP - Powers, 4-1. LP - Miller, 1-6. Sv - None. 2B - Craig-Prince of Wales 1 (Webb 1), Juneau-Douglas 2 (Johnston 1, D. Larson 1). 3B - Craig-Prince of Wales 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (A. Cox 1). HR - None.
CRIMSON BEARS 8, CRAIG-POW 1
Friday's game from Melvin Park
CRAIG-PRINCE OF WALES 100 000 0 - 1 2 7
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 102 203 x - 8 9 2
Craig-Prince of Wales - Miller and Douville. Juneau-Douglas - A. Larson and Bavard. WP - A. Larson, 6-1. LP - Miller, 1-5. Sv - None. 2B - Craig-Prince of Wales 0, Juneau-Douglas 2 (Johnston 1, White 1). 3B - Craig-Prince of Wales 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (Bavard 1). HR - None.