Their high school baseball careers are coming to an end, but the nine Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bear seniors haven't had time to think about their last home games this weekend.
Instead, the seniors - Erik Scholl, C.J. Keys, Matt Greely, Jordan Gray, Sergio Magallanes, Sam Muse, Adam Nelson, Geno Vick and Ryan Walters - have been focused on the work they need to do to earn a return berth to the state tournament.
The two-time defending state champion Crimson Bears host the Ketchikan Kings for a pair of doubleheaders today and Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, and Juneau needs to win at least one of the four games to earn a state berth.
"I think we're just focused on the first game," said Scholl, a shortstop. "We need to keep our momentum."
"We just want to clinch," added Keys, a second baseman-outfielder. "That's what we're focused on. I haven't even thought of it being Senior Night."
The Crimson Bears are 9-3, while the Kings are 5-7. The only way Ketchikan can prevent Juneau from taking the lone Southeast state berth is to win all four games. Then, Juneau and Ketchikan will both have 9-7 records but Ketchikan will have a 5-3 advantage in head-to-head games. One Juneau victory, and Ketchikan is eliminated.
"We just want to worry about doing our job," said Gray, a pitcher-infielder. "We want to make sure we're getting the win, and we work as a team, and then have fun ... or have fun while working as a team."
The Juneau and Ketchikan varsity teams play at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. today, and again at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The Juneau and Ketchikan junior varsity teams also will see action this weekend, but not against each other since the Wrangell and Prince of Wales varsity teams are in town for games at Adair-Kennedy and at Melvin Park.
The series opened Thursday when Wrangell beat POW 8-2, and then the Juneau JV took on both Wrangell and POW for late games. Today, the Juneau JV plays POW at 11 a.m. at Adair-Kennedy while the Ketchikan JV takes on Wrangell at 11 a.m. at Melvin Park, followed by a Wrangell-POW game at 3 p.m. at Melvin Park. On Saturday, the Juneau JV plays Wrangell at 11 a.m. at Adair-Kennedy, while the Ketchikan JV takes on POW at 11 a.m. at Melvin Park and Wrangell plays POW at 3 p.m. at Melvin Park.
Though the Crimson Bear varsity seniors are focused on winning one game to reach state, they would like to make a statement.
"We're not looking to win one game, we're looking to sweep 'em," said Magallanes, a pitcher-outfielder. "But we want to get one out of the way."
"We definitely need to get one, but we want to get more," said Muse, a pitcher-infielder. "It's about pride and taking pride in everything we do."
While most of the seniors are thinking about clinching a state berth, a few admitted their minds had drifted to this weekend being their last batch of home games.
"I don't think it'll soak in, not until after we win one," said Greely, a pitcher-first baseman, who added that needing to clinch "helps us stay a little sharp and keep working."
Also, the speed of the season means the seniors haven't had time to think about the end of their careers. Juneau's first home games of the season were just last weekend.
"The season went by fast," said Vick, a pitcher-outfielder. "I feel we're working real well as a team. They've shown us a lot of support."
"I've thought about it a little bit, but the season's really been short," said Nelson, a first baseman-outfielder. "It helps a lot that we haven't clinched. We want to get as many wins as we can."
The Crimson Bears had to make some adjustments this season after losing 10 players from last year's team. They retooled their entire infield and catching staff, and the younger pitchers stepped up.
"The guys have been a lot better as the season's gone on. The chemistry's better," Nelson said. "The guys are picking each other up and not leaving anyone hanging."
"We're happy where we're at," Greely said. "A lot of people have stepped up this year. Clinching will be special."
If Juneau wins today, the seniors said Saturday's Senior Night will take on its usual pomp and circumstance.
"It'll probably be a little emotional, to think we'll never play another game here with the big crowds," Keys said.
"It'll be nice, since we've played on this field quite some time," Magallanes said. "We'll miss the sandlot. If we can play here, we can play anywhere."
Those thoughts about playing on the sand-and-gravel field at Adair-Kennedy are shared by Magallanes' senior teammates.
"This field definitely makes us better," Scholl said. "I love the infield. Me and Keys have good chemistry together."
"Playing on this infield, you always have to stay focused on the ball," Muse said. "And the outfield's always bumpy."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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