Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears girls softball team picked up right where they left off two years ago - but for many that was middle school.
Many of this season’s roster were freshmen or in eighth grade when the coronavirus pandemic canceled last season but the current Crimson Bears played like an experienced ball club and won two conference games against the Sitka Lady Wolves to open the season on the road at Sitka’s Moller Field over the weekend.
The Crimson Bears were unable to attend the opening Jamboree tournament this season at Sitka due to weather in Juneau.
On Friday the Crimson Bears won 10-6 behind four hits by sophomore Saelyr Hunt and two apiece from sophomore Mariah Schauwecker and senior Mackenzie Jackson.
“The girls battled the whole time,” Juneau-Douglas coach Alexandra Razor said. “There was a couple times that Sitka came back but they went back up to bat and hit more.”
The game was tied 2-2 after the first inning but the Crimson Bears put single runs across in the second, third and fourth innings and three more in the top of the fifth.
Sitka made it interesting with four runs in the bottom of the sixth but the Crimson Bears responded with Hunt stealing home for a run and Schauwecker scoring when Sitka made a play on freshman Chloe Casperson advancing to first base on a dropped third strike.
“The girls did a really good job each inning being aggressive and hitting and running the bases really well,” Razor said.
The Crimson Bears won on Saturday 12-5 again behind Hunt’s four hits, two from Schauwecker and freshman Kiah Yadao, and one each from Jackson, junior Kaia Smith sophomores Anna Dale and Gloria Bixby, and freshmen Tristan Oliva and Casperson.
Razor credited her youngish team, including Hunt who totaled eight hits in two games and seven stolen bases as the team’s first batter.
“She is doing exactly what we need a lead-off hitter to do,” Razor said. “Mariah Schauwecker also did a really good job at the plate, she ended up having 8 hits and she was next leading stolen bases with three… and Anna Dale did a great job behind the plate catching for us.
Overall the girls played really hard, they hustled, we had at least three or four girls diving for balls, trying to make catches and plays, we had a lot of good things happen and a lot of stuff was very positive this weekend.”
Hunt, who is also on the JDHS drill team, actually skipped a year so she should also be a freshman.
“It is pretty fun,” Hunt said. “I have not really been in the first spot so being able get hits right away, get on base, and have my following batters go up and hit me around is pretty fun to watch and really nice to be able to do. I was nervous for the first games but we were ready for them, we have been practicing for a long time.”
Basically the Crimson Bears start a senior and junior and a cast that has never played beyond middle school.
Senior Jackson handles the hot corner at third base and junior Kia Smith steadies the infield throws and fielding at first base, crucial due to the number of young arms in the infield and outfield.
“A lot of these girls have played together for years so they already do kind of mesh well,” Razor said. “We do have kids playing spots they usually wouldn’t play and so they are having to learn new positions but they are doing a great job.”
Schauwecker started on the mound for the Crimson Bears both games and allowed just four runs and had six strikeouts, and Yadao closes (when not fielding), allowing three runs and had eight strikeouts.
Dale is behind the plate, Bixby is at second base, Hunt shortstop, and the outfield are fresh. Really fresh.
They were seventh graders the last time Juneau-Douglas had a season.
Yadao plays left field, Oliva center and Casperson right. What the trio lack in experience they make up for in skill.
On Friday Yadao made a diving attempt at a line drive and missed by inches, the ball got through but Oliva ran from center to chase down the ball at the fence and threw to shortstop Hunt who threw the runner out at home.
“The hitter tried to get an in the park home run but they wouldn’t let it happen, that was pretty impressive,” Razor said. “We also got kids stuck in two or three pickles and we got them out in each of them, we have been doing some drills practicing it and the girls were excited and they were able to get people out every time. They are young but I think that a lot of them have a lot of field maturity and they are hard working. This team really wants to play and they really want to win. We have been talking to them as coaches, as long as they can stay healthy and stay together as a team they can do a lot of things. It is definitely learning our culture and what we want and what we expect as a team and coming together as a team. It’s a good starting point. We found things we have to work on and improve but we are all pretty happy with how this weekend turned out.”
JDHS also lost to Sitka 14-6 in a non-conference game to end the road trip. Current conference records show JDHS at 2-0, Ketchikan 2-0, TMHS 0-2 and Sitka 0-2.
The Crimson Bears play at their home Melvin Park Field on Friday against Thunder Mountain (JV 5 p.m., Varsity 7) and Saturday (JV 2 p.m., V 4 and 6:30). Friday is the Crimson Bears’ Mental Health Awareness game with a fundraising goal of $1,500 to donate to NAMI, with a focus on teen mental health care.
“It is going to be pretty exciting to play in front of my friends and family,” Hunt said. “I know the other people on the TM team, I am friends with them, so being able to play against them instead of with them after a few years is going to be pretty entertaining to watch and pretty fun to see. From skipping a grade and going into last year and having it cancelled is pretty sad but we have been practicing and going hard and first high school games are always going to be some sort of stress, but being able to play well together and being really close to my team really helps out with that.”