Sitka stands one win away from a chance at defending its state baseball championship in Fairbanks after beating host Juneau-Douglas 19-9 in six innings on Wednesday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
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The Wolves took advantage of 13 Crimson Bear errors to qualify for the inaugural Southeast Conference tournament championship round.
"We hit the ball hard and when you hit the ball hard you make the other team make plays," Sitka coach Ed Conway said. "Last couple of days we knew we could hit the ball like this and it just hasn't really been there. As these games go on, everyone's timing gets a little better, they start recognizing off-speed pitches and they start hitting."
After quickly falling behind 4-0, Juneau-Douglas surged ahead with five runs in the fourth as Shawn Ibesate belted a solo home run, Derek Listberger hit an RBI single and Nano Jacobsen laced a two-run double. Gary Stephens also scored off a wild pitch in the inning as JDHS took a 7-4 lead.
With momentum on its side, however, Juneau-Douglas imploded.
Sitka's Kevin Conway led off the fifth with a triple as the Wolves took the game over. The Wolves received two-run hits from Bryn Calhoun and Van Hansen, took advantage of four JDHS errors and two balks to send 13 batters to the plate and score nine runs.
The snowball grew larger for the Crimson Bears in the sixth as Sitka scored six more runs off seven errors and just one hit to put the game away.
JDHS scrapped for two runs in the sixth, but not enough to prevent the 10-run rule from behind enforced.
"It was interesting because we played good baseball when we were behind," JDHS coach Jim Ayers said. "Then we got ahead and it just got, you know, just ugly."
Sitka took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Tommy Stonebreaker belted a two-run shot off starter Sean Lindsay. Luke Chambers put the Wolves up 3-0 in the second after scoring on an error.
Matt Louks gave Sitka a 4-0 advantage in the top of the third after he singled in Calhoun, who reached on an error.
JDHS got two runs back in the third as Pedro Mojica slapped a two-run single.
Clae Baker took the loss in relief for JDHS while Stonebreaker pitched 213 innings in relief of E.B. Crow for the win.
"He's a four-year starter for us and when we need a big hit, he comes through," Ed Conway said of Stonebreaker. "We pitched him in Sitka last weekend for the first time all year. We knew he was pretty good. He's got a little knuckleball he throws, he has the curveball and he locates his fastball OK. We'll have to go to him again (today) if we need to."
With Wednesday's victory, Sitka will face either Ketchikan or Juneau-Douglas at 3 p.m. for the conference championship. If the Wolves lose at 3 p.m., there will be a rematch at 6 p.m.
The Crimson Bears, on the other hand, face a Herculean task if they wish to win the conference tournament.
JDHS must win three consecutive games today, starting at noon against Ketchikan, to seal a berth in the state tournament. One loss today will end Juneau's season.
"It's one game at a time and in some ways it's a good lesson," Ayers said. "That's what we're trying to teach these guys is that's the way life is, it's one step at a time. We're not thinking about the mountain. We've got Ketchikan at noon, then Sitka at 3 p.m. We're seeing it as a double header. We win that doubleheader, we play in the championship game (tonight).
"It's the quality of the spirit that allows us to face challenges without fear or dejection or depression. That's what courage is about and we'll just see how much we have."
Kevin Conway went 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, Crow scored three runs, Calhoun scored twice, Alex Dailey went 1-for-2 with an RBI while Sean O'Neill and Steve Poitra each scored a run for Sitka.
For JDHS, Listberger scored three runs, Joe Kohan went 1-for-2 with an RBI, Jacobsen drive in three runs and Sean Bavard singled and scored.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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