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The Juneau-Douglas seniors walked out of Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park for the final time Saturday evening after yet another Crimson Bears victory over Thunder Mountain.
But this time they completed a perfect in-state regular season record, 15-0, 12-0, something never before accomplished by a JDHS baseball team in the program's 20-year history.
The young Falcons squad was once again overmatched by the title-hungry Bears, as JDHS won 17-1 in the nightcap after posting an 18-0 victory in the opener of a Saturday doubleheader. Thunder Mountain managed its first run of the series in the final game when freshman Jackson Pavitt scored from third on a passed ball.
In the finale, JDHS seniors were substituted one at a time and given ovations as they gave way to their younger counterparts.
Senior catcher Aaron Cohen said leaving the field for the last time was more difficult than he expected.
"It's rough. I've been playing at Adair-Kennedy since I was 14 years old. Four years of high school baseball here and I think we've only lost two games at home, total," he said. "It's great to go out on a win."
As for the undefeated in-state regular season, Cohen said it's a great accomplishment for this year's team.
"It's amazing. It's a good omen. I mean, you feel good going into regions - and hopefully state - with an undefeated record," he said. "You know you're the team to beat and everyone's gunning for you."
That's the position we want to be in. Our pitching has been amazing and our hitting has been great," Cohen continued. "It's just weird thinking that I'm not going to play on this field anymore."
Juneau-Douglas assistant coach Jaime San Miguel said the team has performed well in all aspects this season, and he thinks it will continue on a hopeful run at another state title.
"First, I want to tip my hat to Thunder Mountain. They are a young team and they did a good job," he said. "For us, we've been consistent all season and we're looking forward to regionals starting Thursday, and then we're hoping we can get to state and win again."
San Miguel said the senior group has meant a lot to the younger kids, who will be filling their roles next year after this year's class graduates.
"When we substituted them halfway through the game, it meant a lot to these guys getting a standing ovation at home," he said. "But the thing that impressed me the most was what that group of seniors meant to the younger guys.
"As they go on in life and their baseball careers are over, I want them to look back and realize that they've left a winning program and that their leadership and friendship meant a lot to these kids."
Thunder Mountain manager Bill McCauley said while nobody likes to lose by a lot of runs, he is happy with the way the Falcons progressed through the season while still working hard, even during the difficult losses.
"I think mentally we're getting better, and I saw some really good effort. We've been trying to push the kids to play tougher on defense and react to the ball better," he said.
"They're still a little slow, but that's due to their youth. But we had some nice plays today and their spirit's always been up, so that spells good things for the future."
The Crimson Bears begin their state run this Thursday in Sitka at the Southeast Conference tournament.
Bears Roll Falcons 13-0
Bears Roll Falcons 13-0
By McLean Cannon
For The Juneau Empire
In the second game of a four-game series between the two teams, Thunder Mountain narrowed the deficit of Thursday's rout by more than half and showed improvement on defense, but still fell to the sizzling bats of Juneau-Douglas.
The Bears used stellar pitching and three long balls, two from senior shortstop Vinnie Isturis, to overpower the young Falcons 13-0.
TMHS manager Dave McCauley said he was pleased with his team's progress from Thursday night, which was a 28-0 loss.
"We keep improving and tonight, our mental state was much better. We were more into the game," he said. "They didn't get down on themselves, they stayed with it and our pitching is still throwing a lot of strikes. Every game is a building experience."
The Bears struck for four runs in the top half of the first inning, beginning with a leadoff walk from Dylan Baker followed by a two-run homer from Isturis, giving JDHS an early 2-0 lead.
"I kept my eye on the ball and he just gave me the pitches I wanted today," Isturis said. "He threw me a high and inside pitch and I turned on it, swung as hard as I could and it left the park."
Jamie Daniel added to the deficit, singling in Aaron Cohen, who had reached on an error, and Brendan Daugherty bounced into a fielder's choice to score Alex DeRocher, giving Juneau-Douglas a 4-0 lead after one inning of play.
JDHS tacked on two more runs in the second as Baker laced a single to left, advanced to second after the ball was misplayed by the outfielder and scored on an RBI single from Isturis. Keath Flint followed by knocking in Isturis with a single and extending the Crimson Bear lead to 6-0.
Juneau-Douglas tallied four runs in the third as Daugherty led off with a walk, followed by a Dominic Holloway single, a Lance Ibesate walk and a two-run single from Baker. Cohen followed with a towering two-run homer to left-center to push the lead to 10-0.
Thunder Mountain threatened to score in the bottom half of the third inning, putting runners on first and second with one out after a Dylan Johnson single up the middle, followed by a JDHS error that helped Dalton Small reach base.
But Baker tracked down a well-hit line drive off the bat of Chris Luck in left-center field and doubled off a Falcon base runner on second base to end the inning.
Isturis added to the lead in the fifth with a solo shot for his second long ball of the game, and Damon Ludwig capped off the scoring with a run after reaching base with a single up the middle.
Baker picked up the win, breezing through two innings of work with a dominating pitching performance, striking out all six batters he faced and not allowing a base runner. Alex Campbell pitched two shutout innings of relief and Lance Ibesate closed the door in the fifth to secure the victory.
Ben Bullock suffered the loss for TMHS, though he pitched into the fifth inning and had a number of Crimson Bear hitters off balance with his off-speed pitching.
"They came out and they took care of business," JDHS manager Steve Bavard said. "I want these guys to work on the details of the game like tagging up at third base and working on where you need to be on a fly ball. There are a lot of things they can still be working on, even in a 13-0 game."