It's official. The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team secured a spot in the state tournament on Thursday after defeating Ketchikan, 5-0, in Sitka.
"We're all excited about going to state," Juneau coach Jim Ayers said. "It was our clear goal."
The Crimson Bears (10-1 overall, 10-1 Region V) secured the win on another strong pitching performance, this time from Kalen Meek. Meek struck out nine Kayhi batters over five innings, including five strikeouts in a row over the second and third innings, to improve his record to 3-0 this season.
"It reinforced our confidence to see Kalen Meek go out on the mound and have such a sterling performance," Ayers said. "He was still going in the fifth, but we're still preparing for state and wanted to see what a couple of other guys look like."
Juneau's relievers in the game, Kyle Lanz and Zach Kohan, each pitched an inning and collected a strikeout. Crimson Bear pitchers did not issue any walks in the game.
Juneau jumped ahead with three runs in the first inning. Joe Ayers led off with a single, was advanced to second on a sacrifice, stole third and scored on a sac fly by Dylan Hickey.
Hickey reached base on a Kayhi error, stole second and third and scored on the Kings' catcher's overthrow to third base. Juneau's last run in the first came when Brett Fairchild walked and scored on a double by Kohan.
In the second, Juneau's Nick Wolf doubled and scored on a Ketchikan error. The Crimson Bears' final run came in the fourth, when C.J. Corso doubled and scored on a single by Ayers.
Ayers went 2 for 4 with two stolen bases and an RBI. Hickey also had two stolen bases and an RBI for the Bears.
Coach Jim Ayers said Juneau's top-of-the-order hitters are continuing to produce hits and runs, with hitters toward the bottom of the order starting to pick up. He also noted the Bears' defensive performance; Juneau did not have an error in Thursday's game.
"Our defense - that's what is going to win tournaments for us," Jim Ayers said. "We didn't have any mistakes yesterday."
The Crimson Bears play the Kings again this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., followed by a match with Sitka at 5:30 p.m. today. Juneau concludes the road trip with another game against Ketchikan at noon on Saturday. The two games against Ketchikan will be broadcast locally on AM 800 KINY.
The state tournament will be held in Palmer next Friday and Saturday, May 31 and June 1. The Crimson Bears finished fourth in last year's tournament and second in 2000.
In junior varsity action on Thursday, the Crimson Bears defeated the Kings, 3-2, in a game that came down to the final pitch.
With Kayhi batting with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, on a 3-2 count, Juneau's Zach Mixson threw a called strike to end the game. Mixson pitched a complete game.