The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears defeated the Sitka Wolves 5-4 in walkoff fashion for the Southeast Conference tournament championship on Saturday behind more clutch hitting from Alex DeRocher and a little help from the Sitka defense.
The win helped Juneau-Douglas clinch the No. 1 seed in Alaska's 4A state tournament and helped improve the Bears' undefeated in-state record to 18-0 on the season.
"I just got up there like any other at bat, trying to stay comfortable, and I was thinking first strike I want to pull it because there's a big gap in the six-hole, and that's where it went," DeRocher said of his game-winning hit, the second time this season he's provided late-inning, walkoff heroics.
"I was kind of lucky with the ball going all the way to the fence, but I'm just glad we're going to state with the number one seed and we didn't end up losing this game."
The Wolves struck in the top of the first inning after leadoff hitter Luke Clayton reached on an error, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout off the bat of Devin Romine.
David Reynolds followed by reaching on a fielder's choice before stealing second and scoring on an RBI single from Mik Potrzuski, giving the Wolves a 2-0 first-inning lead.
The Crimson Bears answered back as starter Aaron Cohen helped himself out in the bottom half of the first with a solo shot to left, his third of the tournament, to cut the deficit in half.
The Wolves tacked on another run in the second with an RBI single from Michael Matz that scored pinch runner Max Hanson. But Clayton, who had reached after being hit by a pitch, was thrown out at home as JDHS catcher James San Miguel protected the plate, not allowing the second run to get past him.
Sitka extended its lead to 4-1 in the top half of the fifth inning with a suicide squeeze layed down by Reynolds that scored Matz from third, who had reached after being hit by a pitch.
The Bears got two more runs back in the bottom of the fifth to pull within one as Lance Ibesate and Dylan Baker led off with back-to-back walks, followed by an RBI single to right from Vinnie Isturis to score Ibesate. Aaron Cohen followed with another RBI single to knock in Baker, cutting the Sitka lead to 4-3.
But the rally was cut short when Isturis was tagged out in a rundown between third and home after going too far on a DeRocher pop out.
The score held until the bottom of the seventh inning with the Bears' undefeated season hangin in the balance with just three outs to go.
Ibesate led off the seventh with a walk, took second on a passed ball and Cohen reached base. Baker and DeRocher followed with back-to-back pop outs with JDHS down to its final out.
But DeRocher came through, lacing a first-pitch curveball to left for a single that was misplayed by the Sitka outfielder and rolled all the way to the fence, scoring Ibesate and Cohen to give JDHS the dramatic win.
Ibesate picked up the win with two shutout innings in relief and Cohen got the no decision, giving up five hits, two walks and striking out six batters over five innings. Sitka starter, Mik Potrzuski suffered the loss, though he looked sharp in 6 2-3 innings, keeping the lethal Crimson Bear lineup to just seven hits on the game.
JDHS manager Steve Bavard said he had no doubt in his team pulling off the comeback, and was proud of the way his team had played.
"These guys have been playing their hearts out all season long and it means a lot to these guys and me to have this much success," he said. "We were one run down in the bottom of the seventh inning and had the top of the order coming up, and I thought, 'We've got these guys right where we want them.'"
The Crimson Bears head to Palmer next week for the state tournament.
Bears top Sitka 12-2 for state tournament berth on Friday
The Juneau-Douglas baseball team clinched a state tournament berth with a 12-2 rout of the Sitka Wolves on Friday behind a 10-strikeout performance from ace Dylan Baker, and 13 hits from the Crimson Bears' offense.
Baker gave up two runs on five hits and four walks over five solid innings, and JDHS remained perfect on the season with its 18th win to zero losses.
The Bears struck in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI double from Aaron Cohen, scoring Vinnie Isturis, who had reached base with a walk.
Juneau-Douglas tacked on two more runs in the second inning as Cohen drew a walk with the bases loaded to score Lance Ibesate. Alex DeRocher followed by knocking in Baker with an RBI single, but Isturis was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
The Wolves answered back in the third as Luke Clayton led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on an RBI single from Jacob Licari. Mik Potrzuski followed with an RBI single, scoring David Reynolds, who had reached on a walk.
The Bears' bats caught fire in the third as they tallied seven runs on seven hits in the inning. Keath Flint led off with a single, Damon Ludwig followed with a single of his own and Lance Ibesate slapped a two-run single to score them both.
A Sitka error on a high pop up off the bat of Baker helped score Ibesate and extended the JDHS lead to 6-2. Isturis reached base on another error and Cohen followed with a three-run homer, giving him five RBIs for the game and pushing the lead to 9-2.
DeRocher and Flint followed with back-to-back singles, and Ludwig singled for his third hit of the game to score DeRocher.
The Bears added three more runs in the fourth with an RBI single from Dominic Holloway that scored pinch runner Alex Campbell after the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Holloway later scored on a sacrifice fly from Isturis, and Baker struck out the side in the fifth to give JDHS the win on account of the 10-run mercy rule.
Thunder Mountain's season ended on Friday after falling to Ketchikan 14-1.