FAIRBANKS - At breakfast on Friday morning, several of the Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team's seniors mentioned to each other that they'd been playing together since they were in T-Ball and that afternoon's state championship game would be their last time playing as a group.
The Crimson Bear seniors closed out their careers together with their second straight title, as Juneau rallied to beat the Bartlett Golden Bears 7-3 Friday afternoon at Growden Memorial Park.
"It's a perfect ending, perfect," said Juneau senior pitcher-first baseman Evan Scandling, who drove in two runs and scored once. "It was an awesome way to end it."
"We were saying we weren't losing our last game together," added senior outfielder-catcher Bud Baun, who also had two RBIs and a run scored.
The Homer Mariners took third place with a 9-4 victory over the Lathrop Malemutes in Friday morning's consolation game. Homer also won the team academic award and team sportsmanship awards. Juneau landed four of its eight seniors on the all-tournament team - Baun, Scandling, shortstop Joe Ayers and pitcher-third baseman Zach Kohan. Senior second baseman-pitcher Nick Wolf and junior center fielder Sergio Magallanes were Juneau's two representatives on the good sport team.
It took some time for the Crimson Bears (15-1 overall) to get going, as Bartlett (12-3) jumped out to an early lead while the Juneau batters tried to figure out pitcher Jason Hart.
The Golden Bears scored twice in the first inning off Scandling, and things might have been worse if Bartlett hadn't run itself out of the rally.
Royce Woodruff led off with a single to right and Patrick Moran walked, and then Nic Ridley reached on a fielder's choice to third that erased Woodruff. But Kohan got greedy and tried to go for a double play, sailing his throw to first wide of the mark and allowing the runners to advance a base each. Doug Olson followed with a two-run single to left, but later was picked off first by Juneau senior catcher Isaac Cadiente. That cleared the bases and a pop to second ended the inning.
Bartlett added another run in the second inning, as Hart singled, then went to third when Scandling made a wild pick-off throw to first. Josh Jones singled Hart in for the run, and Juneau coach Jim Ayers replaced Scandling with Matt Greely, who got out of the jam and didn't allow a hit the rest of the game.
Greely, a junior who throws with a funky half-sidearm, half-underhand delivery, struck out seven batters and only allowed two baserunners after the second inning - Olson on a walk in the third before he was caught stealing a second time, and Woodruff on a two-out error in the fifth.
"He was amazing. I don't even know what to say about Greely," Scandling said. "He picked us up. He stopped it, and gave us the momentum. I was disappointed in my own pitching, but he was awesome."
"Everything was working," said Greely, who said he threw a fastball, changeup and curve, and whatever else might be working. "I was just trying to put up some zeros. I wasn't looking at the score, I figured we were starting over. It's great, this is sweet. It just proves how resilient we are. I feel great for the seniors getting two in a row, and I want to be back here next year to go for three."
Junior left fielder C.J. Keys said he and center fielder Sergio Magallanes knew Greely would hold Bartlett once they saw him warming up. Keys said the two were chatting in the outfield during Greely's warm-up pitches, and they could tell he was on.
"Greely dominated and his stuff kept them off-balance the rest of the game," Baun said. "We are the comeback team, and we were there for each other."
"He throws sidearm and stuff, and it's really hard for the other team," Cadiente said. "I kept hearing them in their dugout telling each other to try to pick up the ball early, because his release point is back here. We are such a comeback team, and we knew it was coming."
While Greely stopped Bartlett's offense, the Juneau offense awoke and Keys was the key from the nine spot in the batting order with three hits and three runs scored.
"I was just trying to get something started," Keys said as he watched a couple of the seniors dump an cooler full of ice over the head of coach Jim Ayers. "I was really happy to get some hits, since I was in a little bit of a slump. This is great for the seniors, and I want to come back next year. This feels great; there's nothing like running in and getting in that pile. It's great."
Keys got things going in the third inning when he singled, stole second and scored when Joe Ayers reached on an error at short.
Keys scored Juneau's second run of the game to start a four-run rally in the fifth inning - a rally helped by three Bartlett errors and two hit batters. With one out, Keys singled, stole second and went to third on an error on the throw, then scored on a single by Scandling. The next two hitters - Ayers and Kohan - were both hit by pitches to load the bases, and then Baun hit a two-run single and Magallanes followed with another RBI single to give the Crimson Bears a 6-3 lead.
Keys scored his third run of the game in the sixth inning. Keys hit his third single of the game, then took second on a bunt single by senior second baseman Nick Wolf and stole third before scoring when Scandling grounded to the first baseman. Juneau thought it had another run when it appeared Wolf scored on a single by Ayers, but the run was erased and the inning ended when Bartlett appealed at third and Wolf was called out for missing the bag.
"Keys was our unexpected hero," Baun said.
"That's just how Keys plays," Cadiente said.
In the top of the seventh inning, all three Bartlett batters hit high pop ups to Joe Ayers at shortstop. On the last one, by Elliot Larsen, the ball was barely into Ayers' glove when he threw the glove and ball to the ground so he could rush Greely. The rest of the Crimson Bears joined in for a large pig pile on the mound - highlighted by a nice flying tackle of Cadiente by Magallanes that would have made any NFL cornerback proud, and with Keys on the very top of the pile for the second straight year.
"I didn't feel it," Ayers said of the last pop up. "I just had to get in the bottom of the pile. We're just a family. We go out together to do things and we've been together for so long. This game speaks a lot about our character. We knew if we stayed in the game we could come back and win it. It's been one through nine (in the batting order) all year long. If someone's struggling, someone else is there to pick them up."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
STATE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
The scores and awards from the 2003 state baseball tournament held Thursday and Friday at Growden Memorial Park in Fairbanks.
Thursday's first-round scores
Game 1 - Bartlett 10, Homer 4.
Game 2 - Juneau-Douglas 7, Lathrop 0.
Friday's second-round scores
Game 3 - Third-fourth place game: Homer 9, Lathrop 4.
Game 4 - Championship game: Juneau-Douglas 7, Bartlett 3.
Team sportsmanship award - Homer Mariners.
Team academic award - Homer Mariners, 3.39 GPA.
All-tournament team - Jerome Johnson, Lathrop; Jimbo Pollack, Homer; Adam Crum, Homer; Doug Olson, Bartlett; Nic Ridley, Bartlett; Bud Baun, Juneau-Douglas; Joe Ayers, Juneau-Douglas; Zach Kohan, Juneau-Douglas; Evan Scandling, Juneau-Douglas.
Good sport team members from Southeast - Nick Wolf, Juneau-Douglas; Sergio Magallanes, Juneau-Douglas.
2003 - Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears.
2002 - Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears.
2001 - Service Cougars.
2000 - East Anchorage Thunderbirds.
CRIMSON BEARS 7, GOLDEN BEARS 3
Friday's championship game from Growden Memorial Park
BARTLETT 210 000 0 - 3 4 4
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 001 031 x - 7 10 3
Bartlett - Hart and Olson. Juneau-Douglas - Scandling, Greely (2) and Cadiente. WP - Greely. LP - Hart. Sv - None. 2B - None. 3B - None. HR - None.