It was a weekend of pain and near-perfection for the Juneau-Douglas High School softball team.
The Crimson Bears swept a three-game series against region rival Sitka on Friday and Saturday at Melvin Park - including a complete-game no-hitter by sophomore pitcher Ashley Larson on Friday night that was very nearly a perfect game.
But the wins came at a cost - freshman pitcher Torie Powers, one of Juneau's three starters, suffered a badly sprained ankle on Saturday after colliding with Sitka catcher Krista Ozawa at home plate. Powers may miss the rest of the season.
The rest of the weekend was peppered with less-serious bangs and bruises, but the Crimson Bears persevered to post a strong 8-0 win on Friday - Larson's no-hit game - and back-to-back 4-2 and 6-0 victories on Saturday against the Wolves.
"As we lost kids, the replacement players came in and did well," Juneau head coach Dave Massey said. "This year we have a lot of flexibility. ...
"Different kids tend to have good games on different days. That's handy - someone is always having a good day."
Larson was good both days. She began Friday's game by striking out Sitka's Tawny Hoyt, then pitched into the fifth without allowing a single baserunner. With one out in the fifth, a high fly ball to right field by Wolves first baseman Teal Schlins tipped off the glove of Juneau's Rachel Barril; Schlins was safe on the error.
Larson proceeded to retire the next eight batters to complete the no-hitter.
It was the second no-no of the season for the Crimson Bears; Hannah Barril threw one in Ketchikan against the Kings earlier this month.
To aid her cause, Larson supplied all the offense she and the Crimson Bears would need in the bottom of the first inning. After Jordan Johnston drew a leadoff walk, Larson stepped up to the plate with two outs and smacked a double to right field to score Johnston.
In the second inning, Barril got on base after being hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on a bunt single by her younger sister, Hannah Barril, and scored on a fielder's choice by Johnston.
Hannah Barril moved to second and stole third, while Powers walked. Powers tried to steal second and got caught in a run-down; meanwhile, Hannah Barril stole home to put the Crimson Bears up 3-0. Powers was safe at first on a Sitka error, and went on to score.
Juneau (17-2 overall, 11-2 Region V) added two insurance runs in the fourth and one in the sixth; the last run was scored when Larson hit a double to drive in her older sister Danielle.
Ashley Larson said she was a little upset going into Friday's game because she had arrived late and was scolded. She said she pitches better when she is mad.
Ashley Larson said it felt good to defeat Sitka, since the Wolves handed the Crimson Bears their only two losses of the season. Those came in April in the teams' first two games; Juneau has since won 17 games in a row.
"We lost to them when we were there, so we wanted to redeem ourselves," Larson said. "These games are important, because they determine what seed we are up at state."
The Crimson Bears have already qualified for the state tourney June 5-6 in Fairbanks. Sitka has also qualified, and the Wolves will be making the trip north after raising enough money to cover travel costs.
Before the series, Massey said playing Sitka would benefit Juneau in its state preparations because the Wolves are among the toughest regular-season opponents the Crimson Bears will see. They proved that in Saturday's early game, as Sitka starting pitcher Kelsey Hagan struck out six Crimson Bears in the first three innings.
Sitka held a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the fourth, when Ashley Larson tied the game with one swing of the bat. Larson drilled the first pitch she saw over the left-field fence for a solo home run. Larson said she knew the ball was gone when it came off her bat.
"I can always feel it on really good hits," she said. "It hits just the right part of the bat. It doesn't happen too often; I was really excited."
Sitka regained the lead, 2-1, in the top of the fifth, but Hannah Barril's leadoff triple in the bottom half of the inning keyed a two-run inning for Juneau. The inning ended when Powers injured her ankle racing in to home plate; she was out on the play.
The Crimson Bears added a run in the sixth for the final tally. Hannah Barril picked up the win on the mound, while Ashley Larson came in for the save.
Saturday's late game saw Juneau jump out to a 1-0 lead after the first, but the inning ended in another collision. After Johnston scored, Danielle Larson sprinted for home and collided with Ozawa. Both left the game and would not return; Larson cut her lip.
Sitka pitcher Cara Palmer then shut down the Bears until the bottom of the fifth. Palmer walked Rachel Barril, and then Dana Flansaas singled to right field. The outfielder misplayed the ball, allowing Barril and Flansaas to reach home and give Juneau a 3-0 lead. The Crimson Bears added three more runs in the sixth, keyed by a double by Nicole Bavard.
Alicia Maryott started the game on the mound for Juneau in place of the injured Powers, and she threw three scoreless innings before Ashley Larson came in to close out the game.
"I knew I had to do a good job for (Torie) and for my team," Maryott said. "I just went out there and relaxed."
The Crimson Bears will host Ketchikan next weekend at Melvin Park for their final regular season games.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CRIMSON BEARS 6, WOLVES 0
Saturday's late game from Melvin Park
SITKA 000 000 0 - 0 3 2
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 100 023 x - 6 10 1
Sitka - Palmer, R. Schlins (6) and Ozawa, Gordon (2). Juneau-Douglas - Maryott, A. Larson (4) and Bavard. WP - Maryott. LP - Palmer. Sv - A. Larson. 2B - Sitka 1 (Gordon), Juneau-Douglas 1 (Bavard). 3B - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (Bavard). HR - none.
CRIMSON BEARS 4, WOLVES 2
Saturday's early game from Melvin Park
SITKA 010 010 0 - 2 5 3
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 000 121 x - 4 7 2
Sitka - Hagan, R. Schlins (5) and Ozawa. Juneau-Douglas - H. Barril, A. Larson (6) and Bavard. WP - H. Barril. LP - R. Schlins. Sv - A. Larson. 2B - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (Johnston). 3B - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 2 (H. Barril, Bavard). HR - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (A. Larson).
CRIMSON BEARS 8, WOLVES 0
Friday's game from Melvin Park
SITKA 000 000 0 - 0 0 2
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 131 201 x - 8 10 1
Sitka - Hagan, R. Schlins (4) and Ozawa. Juneau-Douglas - A. Larson and Bavard. WP - A. Larson. LP - Hagan. Sv - None. 2B - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 2 (A. Larson 2). 3B - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (H. Barril 1). HR - None.