All it takes is one.
The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team needs one victory this weekend at Sitka's Moller Field to clinch a spot in the state tournament.
Even if the Crimson Bears were to lose all five of their games, Juneau can still book its trip to Palmer if the Ketchikan Kings lose once in their five games. Sitka, which plays four games this weekend, already has been eliminated from state tournament contention.
While it's nearly a foregone conclusion Juneau will participate in the state tournament May 31-June 1 at Palmer's Hermon Brothers Field, the Crimson Bears (8-1 overall, 8-1 in Region V) know there's still some work to be done in order to earn the lone Region V berth to state.
"In a way it's good we still need to win one, just so guys aren't thinking we can slack off before state," Juneau senior pitcher-third baseman-outfielder Brett Fairchild said.
"We need to keep winning," junior catcher Isaac Cadiente said.
The Crimson Bears open their final regular-season series by playing Sitka (2-8 overall, 2-8 region) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. On Thursday, Juneau plays Ketchikan (4-5 overall, 4-5 region) at 2:30 p.m. Juneau plays a doubleheader on Friday, going against Ketchikan again at 2:30 p.m., with a matchup against Sitka at 5:30 p.m. Juneau closes out the trip against Ketchikan at noon.
"We just want to get better," junior shortstop Joe Ayers said. "Every game does matter. We need to keep improving so we roll on into state."
All of Juneau's games except the 5:30 p.m. game on Friday will be broadcast locally on KINY, 800-AM radio. In the other varsity games this weekend, Ketchikan plays Sitka at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Juneau junior varsity also will see action this weekend, with a 2:30 p.m. game on Wednesday against Sitka, a 10 a.m. game Thursday against Ketchikan and a 9 a.m. game Friday against Ketchikan.
The Crimson Bears had last weekend off after winning four games the week before in Juneau. The Crimson Bears opened their season by losing 12-7 to Ketchikan on May 8, but since then they have won eight straight games.
Despite having last weekend off, the Crimson Bears don't feel like they've cooled off. In fact, they think the switch from having the week off midway through the season is better than having an off-week immediately before the state tournament.
"I think we're going to hit the tar out of the ball," Fairchild said. "It was good thinking on Jim's part (referring to head coach Jim Ayers), moving the bye week up a week. That was a real smooth call."
"I think the good news is we picked up an edge on our school work," said Jim Ayers, who added that this year's Juneau team has a better team GPA than the previous squads that won the last two state tournament academic awards. "What I want is to win some baseball games and to get good grades. We've won the academic award, now it's time to win the state title and the academic award. We really needed the time off."
Ayers feels the Crimson Bears have been a different team since Juneau lost its opener. He likes the change.
"One of the best things that happened was losing that first game," Ayers said. "It was a great baseball lesson, and a great life lesson. They learned what happens if you get overconfident. They learned you have to work for it, and everybody's been working hard since the loss."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.