Juneau-Douglas capped off its undefeated run through the Alaska baseball season with a state championship Saturday, rallying to defeat defending state champion Dimond 9-7 behind 10 strikeouts by starter Dylan Baker and key contributions from the middle and bottom of the lineup.
"The guys just kept coming back," manager Steve Bavard said. "They didn't give up and they just played with a little more heart. This is what we've been looking for all season long, and this is huge for these guys. This is something they'll never forget."
The game remained deadlocked at 0-0 until the bottom of the third inning as the Bears were able to string together three straight hits, beginning with a leadoff single from Lance Ibesate.
Baker followed with a base hit down the left-field line and Alex DeRocher came through in the clutch with a two-run double to right-center, giving Juneau-Douglas a 2-0 lead.
The Crimson Bears added another run in the fourth as Damon Ludwig laced a single to left-center, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Jamie Daniel to move pinch runner Justin Brooks over to second. Ibesate followed with an RBI single up the middle to extend the JDHS lead to 3-0.
But the Lynx answered back in the top half of the fifth with a five-run inning to take the lead.
Kyle Kornegay drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball. Tyler Thompson followed with an infield single to get the Lynx on the board. Cory Clevenger followed with a triple just past the outstretched glove of Daniel in center to score Thompson.
Sagan Osborne added an RBI triple of his own down the right-field line to score Clevenger and knot the score at 3-3. Osborne scored on a passed ball to give the Lynx the lead, and a dropped third strike that rolled to the backstop allowed Erik Cooper to reach base. Cooper later scored on an RBI single from Vince Partusch to give Dimond a 5-3 lead, pushing the Bears' state title hopes to the brink.
But the Bears mounted a two-out rally in the fifth inning as DeRocher singled. Keath Flint followed with a sharp base hit up the middle and Ludwig delivered with a big two-run double down the left-field line for his third hit of the game.
"I saw the pitcher was going outside so I tried to drive it the other way," Ludwig said. "The first couple pitches were fastballs. He threw me a curveball on the third pitch and the fourth pitch was on the outside corner, and I drove it."
Daniel followed with an RBI single to right to score Ludwig, pushing Juneau-Douglas back to the lead at 6-5.
"I just got my pitch" Daniel said. "I knew I needed to come through and I did. I was just thinking about how we needed a run, took a deep breath and he threw me a pitch right down the middle, so I cranked it to the right side."
JDHS tacked on three more runs in the sixth as Ibesate reached base on an error, moving all the way to third on the throw. Baker followed by reaching on another error and Ibesate later scored on a passed ball to extend the lead.
Vinny Isturis drew a walk, and both he and courtesy runner Alex Campbell scored on passed balls to push the JDHS lead to 9-5 going into the seventh.
Dimond made things interesting in the seventh as Thompson doubled to deep center, followed by an RBI single from Clevenger. Clevenger then stole third and scored after the throw rolled into left field, cutting the deficit to 9-7.
But Baker struck out Vince Partusch to end the game, giving Juneau-Douglas the state title while keeping its perfect in-state record intact.
The Crimson Bears also won the All-Academic award, given to the team with the highest combined GPA for the last semester. Juneau-Douglas held a 3.55 team GPA and had five players with a 4.0.
Sitka defeated West Valley 7-1 in the third place game.
Bears Blank West Valley
The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears moved within one win of a state championship and an undefeated in-state season with a 4-0 victory over the West Valley Wolfpack on Friday afternoon at Palmer High School.
Dylan Baker and Vinnie Isturis supplied the fireworks from the batter's box, and starter Aaron Cohen pitched a complete-game gem on the mound.
"The deciding factor in this game was Aaron (Cohen) pitching a shutout. We obviously couldn't hit their pitching," manager Steve Bavard said of the Bears' relatively low offensive output. "We were all out on our front foot and beating everything into the ground, so keeping them off the scoreboard really helped get us the victory."
Cohen fired a four-hitter, yielding four walks and striking out eight over seven sharp innings.
"My defense did really well behind me," Cohen said. "I threw a lot of strikes, James (San Miguel) did good behind the plate and it feels great to pitch in a game to get us to the championship."
The Crimson Bears got off to a fast start in the first inning with Baker connecting on a towering home run over the left-field fence on the second pitch of the game to give JDHS an early 1-0 lead.
Isturis followed with a single, advancing to second on the throw and later scoring on a steal attempt after the West valley catcher's throw sailed into left field, pushing the lead to 2-0, Bears.
JDHS threatened to extend to lead in the second inning, putting runners on first and second with just one out after singles from San Miguel and Lance Ibesate, but Baker and Isturis popped out to end the inning.
The Bears did add to the lead in the third after Alex DeRocher reached on an error, followed by an RBI double into gap in left-center from Keath Flint that scored DeRocher and gave JDHS a 3-0 lead.
Cohen lost his no-hit bid in the fifth, but JDHS extended its lead and Isturis,who was named Player of the Game with three hits, tacked on a solo shot to left in the seventh to cap the scoring.