ANCHORAGE - Teams tested and tried the Juneau-Douglas High School softball players, but no one or nothing could break the Crimson Bears' indomitable spirit.
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JDHS won its fifth Alaska School Activities Association State Softball Championship on Saturday with an 11-9 win over North Pole High School at Cartee Fields in Anchorage. It was the Crimson Bears' third state title in the last four years.
"It's amazing," an elated Juneau-Douglas third baseman Cortney Wagner said. "It's such a good thing. We've all played together for so long. Getting this together is indescribable. It's so cool."
Since softball became an ASAA-sanctioned sport in 1996, Juneau-Douglas appeared in the finals nine times.
The 2007 version of the Bears, however, will be known for their ability to maintain their faith and trust in their teammates regardless of the circumstances.
"This group really is special from the standpoint where there was no drama and they're so much fun to coach," JDHS coach Dave Massey said. "All you have to do is key in what you want them to do. They're goofy as any group but they come through. ... They do everything we ask pretty much on task as well as you can ask any of these girls to do."
After leading by as much as seven, North Pole gamely battled to slice Juneau's advantage to 9-8.
Instead of getting down, though, Juneau-Douglas went deep.
After Madison Massey led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, senior Andrea Doerflinger rocketed a Bonnie Heineken offering over the fence for a two-run home run.
"It allowed me to breath," Dave Massey joked about Doerflinger's homer.
The senior pitcher then recorded her ninth and 10th strikeouts of the game to seal the Bears' fifth title.
For the four-game tourney, Doerflinger struck out 33 batters in 29 innings while walking just four batters. She also received terrific defensive support as JDHS yielded only 21 hits during the two-day tournament.
"We know each other so well that I don't have to worry about when a ball gets hit because I know they're going to be there," Doerflinger said. "And if it hits a gap, so what? We'll get it next time. It's just trusting each other and knowing everyone is going to be there."
Juneau-Douglas started hot as it led 9-2 after three innings.
Sophomore All-Tournament selection and player of the game Annie Hegar crushed a two-run double and Doerflinger drove in a run as JDHS scored four runs in the first.
After North Pole struck for two in the second, the Bears responded with a five-run third as Hegar, Darby Brown and senior Tara Hansen hit consecutive RBI singles. Senior Carrie Laliberte stroked a two-run double to give JDHS a 9-2 lead.
"To accomplish this, I think it's great," Hansen said. "We keep our heads up."
Juneau-Douglas players needed to keep their heads up as the Patriots roared back into the game.
Nicole Chalstrom and Liz Hall drove in runs in the fourth to cut the lead to 9-4.
In the fifth, the Patriots put together a four-run, two-out rally.
For more photos of the JDHS softball championship, visit spotted.juneauempire.com.
"That's what North Pole has, we can rally back," Hall said. "North Pole girls, we're so full of spirit. That's what I'm so proud of. We can rally back. Even though we lost, it's really important we came back and it was close."
After the game, the two teams showed terrific sportsmanship as they congratulated each other, shared hugs and joined together for a group photo after the game.
The two teams formed a friendship earlier this season in North Pole. During a rainstorm, the Patriots invited Juneau on to their bus to ride out the weather and the two teams quickly became friends.
There weren't many tears after Saturday's game, just lots of smiles and laughs between two groups of friends.
"It's just the respect that two good teams have for each other," Hall said.
Hegar, Brown and Wagner all made the All-Tournament team while the Crimson Bears received the academic award for having the highest GPA among the teams at the tournament.
Six seniors and Hegar, who is moving to North Carolina, ended their JDHS careers on top.
Doerflinger, Hansen, Laliberte, Madison Massey, Sammy Roguska and Kayla Jannell helped continue Juneau's successful softball tradition.
"I'm so excited for them," Wagner said of the seniors. "It means so much to them."
Juneau-Douglas 5, North Pole 1, in 6 innings
Juneau-Douglas High School reached the championship final for the ninth time in 11 years on Saturday in a time-shortened six innings.
The Crimson Bears scored one run each in the first and second innings and had a three-run third to win the game.
Andrea Doerflinger hit a towering solo home run to straight-away center field while Darby Brown went 2-for-3 with a two-run double to pace the Bears.
Cortney Wagner hit a sacrifice fly RBI and scored in the win. For the tournament, Wagner went 6-for-12 with five runs scored and three RBIs.
Sammy Roguska added a sacrifice RBI for Juneau.
Doerflinger allowed four hits and one run in six innings while striking out nine batters.
Juneau-Douglas 6, Chugiak 5, in 9 innings
In arguably the most exciting game in the tournament, Juneau-Douglas High School rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Cook Inlet Conference champs on Friday.
Sammy Roguska laced a two-run hit down the left field line to tie the game. Madison Massey followed with a long fly ball to right that was misplayed by the right fielder, allowing Roguska to score the winning run. The bench and Juneau's fans leapt to their feet as Roguska scored the game-winning run.
"This is the most comfortable I've ever been with a team," Massey said. "We all get along. No one gets down on each other. It's wonderful to be on the field with them."
Earlier, the game had moved to extra innings with the score tied at 2-2.
Both teams exchanged runs in the eighth, but Chugiak High School fought back as Joanna Schultz scored on a wild pitch and Becca Curlee came home on a fielder's choice.
"When we got out of it, we had the top of the lineup coming up so we were confident going in," Roguska said.
Roguska and Wagner had two hits each, Doerflinger hit a triple, Brown doubled and Nicole Fenumiai went 1-for-4 in the win.
Pinch runner Hannah Massey scored the bears' run in the eighth while Nethia Laverina scored in the third.
"This was a good test for us," JDHS coach Dave Massey said. "This game will make us tougher."
Juneau-Douglas 2, Bartlett 0
Juneau-Douglas High School pitcher Andrea Doerflinger fired a complete-game shutout as the Crimson Bears blanked Bartlett High School to open tournament play.
Doerflinger allowed two hits while striking out nine batters with only one walk
Shortstop Nicole Fenumiai made two smart putouts when the Golden Bears threatened in the fifth. Fenumiai stabbed a grounder for a force-out at second then slid on her knees two plays later to end the inning when she threw to third for an out.
JDHS scored its first run in the fifth as Carrie Laliberte singled in Hannah Massey. Massey was running for Annie Hegar, who led off the inning with a double.
In the sixth, Cortney Wagner's RBI single brought in Madison Massey.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.