Senior Nina Fenumiai stretches to make a catch during Thunder Mountain High School softball practice at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Senior Nina Fenumiai stretches to make a catch during Thunder Mountain High School softball practice at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

2019 Softball and Baseball Preview: Falcons softball chases another banner

Thunder Mountain pitching receives family, alumni help

With strong softball foundations throughout the region, Thunder Mountain High School coach John Boucher knows simply having a winning season can be a tough task in Southeast, to say nothing of winning a state championship.

“When I started with this program we were just getting killed,” Boucher said. “We played against some Sitka teams that I think they won four (state titles) in a row. They had a pitcher that was the coach’s daughter, Stefania Potrzuski, and they won all four years that kid was pitching. She was good.”

Similar to the Lady Wolves in 2013, the Falcons will be chasing a fourth consecutive state championship this season. Another banner raised this season and the Falcons would become just the third team to four-peat in Alaska’s prep softball history (records began in 1996). East Anchorage won four straight large schools crowns from 2012-2015, and Sitka won small schools crowns from 2010-2013.

Senior Emily Bowman reaches for the ball during Thunder Mountain High School softball practice at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Senior Emily Bowman reaches for the ball during Thunder Mountain High School softball practice at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

If history is any indication, Thunder Mountain’s pitching is good enough to make it happen.

Over the past two seasons, seniors Kyra Jenkins Hayes and Nina Fenumiai have been virtually unbeatable. The duo have a combined 39-4 record over the last two seasons. The Falcons were undefeated last year with Jenkins Hayes in the circle.

“Knowing if I’m having a bad game, I’ll just be like, ‘I ain’t having it,’” Fenumiai said. “Kyra comes in and she pitches the rest of the game and we’re good. I know that Kyra will always be there.”

“Either of one of them is subject to having an off day,” Boucher added, “and the other one can come in and have a great day.”

The two have been receiving extra tutelage this season from former teammates Taylor Beardslee and Makayla Harp, who were the Falcons’ go-to pitchers in the program’s first-ever state championship in 2016.

“Not everyone can go and not only do it once but do it again,” Harp said of winning a state championship. “Being a pitcher, it takes extra work and these girls are putting in extra time and it’s good to see and they don’t look overwhelmed. They look like they’re handling everything really well.”

Harp is back in town after playing two seasons at Independence Community College, a junior college in southeast Kansas. She would like to continue to play in the future, but took this spring off to help coach her alma mater. Her time in Kansas opened her mind to new pitching insights, she said.

“I try to help as much as I can and make it easier in a sense for them,” Harp said, “where they don’t have to take the long way to learn like I did. Kind of give them some cheat sheets because playing in college was a whole ‘nother experience and I learned a lot of things that I wished I’d known sooner.”

Beardslee is Fenumiai’s older sister and was the player Fenumiai aspired to be when she started playing for the Falcons in 2016: a talented pitcher who never quit or cut corners.

Through three seasons, that’s who she’s been, too.

“I love being around my sisters and just having Taylor come back to help coach my senior year is extremely amazing so she can be a part of my last year playing softball,” Fenumiai said.

Coach John Boucher speaks to his players during Thunder Mountain High School softball practice at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Coach John Boucher speaks to his players during Thunder Mountain High School softball practice at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Here’s a look at the JDHS softball, JDHS baseball and TMHS baseball teams.

JDHS baseball

Last season: 18-3, 9-3 Southeast.

Outlook: The departures of a host of seniors from last year’s state championship squad — notably Gatorade Player of the Year Michael Cesar — will mean a brand-new look Crimson Bears. With 10 sophomores, including sluggers Christian Ludeman, Brock McCormick and Garrett Bryant, JDHS will be full of youth this season.

Coach Luke Adams: “We have a lot of new faces in the program. The program’s bigger than it’s been in the past five or so years and we’re excited for everything in the next month and a half.”

JDHS softball

Last season: 4-14; 4-8 Southeast.

Outlook: Catcher Skylar Hickok and pitcher Sophia Schauwecker lead this year’s relatively young Crimson Bears team. The aforementioned seniors, who combined for over 50 hits last season, will be playing along with plenty of new faces young (freshmen Kaia Smith and Margot Oliver) and old (junior Ariana Connally and senior Chloe Goble).

Goble and Connally could become big contributors this season after being sidelined with injuires all last season. Pitchers Schauwecker, Smith, Mia Loree and Amanda Van Slyke will be have a strong outfield, including Asianna Mazon, on their side. JDHS traveled to California last week for the 2019 Perks Sports Academy Antioch Invitational where they went 1-2 through Friday.

Coach Lexie Razor: “I think one of things that’s helping our team the most is the girls are bonding and coming together as a team. They’re playing for each other. Good things can happen when you trust the person next to you and you want to do well for the person next to you. But we do have a young team. I have four or five girls that have only played a year or two of ball so they’re athletic but there’s a lot of learning still to happen.”

TMHS baseball

Last season: 8-11; 5-7 Southeast.

Outlook: Like their crosstown counterparts, the Falcons lost a deep and talented senior class that included arguably its strongest pitcher (Bobby Cox), strongest batter (Sammy McKnight) and best fielder (Owen Mendoza). Also similar to JDHS, Thunder Mountain has several underclassmen on the rise, including Oliver Mendoza and Jake Carte. Coach Bill McCauley said the biggest puzzle this season has been constructing a pitching rotation practically from scratch. So far he said Carte and upperclassmen Bryson Echiverri, Cameron Eppers and Stone Morgan have shown promise on the mound.

Coach Bill McCauley: “We’re pushing them really hard and I’m particularly pushing them really hard but they’re still having fun. Really, if they can just gel as a team and if our leaders can keep the young kids together — because the young kids are skilled.”

TMHS Softball Schedule

April 19-20 at Ketchikan

April 25-26 at Sitka

May 3, 4, 6 at Juneau-Douglas

May 9 Sitka

May 10 Ketchikan

May 11 Sitka, Ketchikan

May 17-18 Juneau-Douglas

May 24-25 Region V Tournament (Sitka)

JDHS Baseball Schedule

April 11-13 Sitka Preseason Tournament

April 19-20 Thunder Mountain

April 26-27 at Petersburg

May 10-11 Ketchikan

May 17-18 Sitka

May 23-25 Region V Tournament (Juneau)

JDHS Softball Schedule

April 19-20 at Sitka

April 26-27 at Ketchikan

May 3, 4, 6 Thunder Mountain

May 9 Ketchikan

May 10 Sitka

May 11 Ketchikan, Sitka

May 17-18 at Thunder Mountain

May 24-25 Region V Tournament (Sitka)

TMHS Baseball Schedule

April 11-13 Sitka Preseason Tournament

April 19-20 Juneau-Douglas

May 3-4 Ketchikan

May 10-11 at Sitka

May 17-18 at Petersburg

May 23-25 Region V Tournament (Juneau)


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.