Juneau-Douglas’ Garrett Bryant scores in front of the throw to Sitka’s catcher Morgan Simic in the fourth inning during the Region V Baseball Championship at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Bryant and the Crimson Bears will play games in Sitka Friday and Saturday. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Garrett Bryant scores in front of the throw to Sitka’s catcher Morgan Simic in the fourth inning during the Region V Baseball Championship at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Bryant and the Crimson Bears will play games in Sitka Friday and Saturday. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Batter up: Juneau high schools start season in Sitka

Play ball!

For the first time in a long time, Juneau high school teams will be playing baseball.

Both Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Thunder Mountain High School baseball teams are traveling to Sitka for a much-anticipated tournament Friday and Saturday against other Southeast Alaska teams. The games are the first of the season —the first since last baseball season was canceled because of the pandemic.

“We know exactly how it feels to not have anything, and that’s what everyone endured last spring,” said JDHS coach Chad Bentz in a phone interview. “It makes this so special. We get to play a game.”

TMHS coach Joe Tompkins agreed and said he’s “very excited” for a return to baseball.

“I’m excited to see them all,” Tompkins said. “To see them out there playing. It will be nice to see them play and see them outside on the field with everyone else.

The tournament will be the first look in over a year at the teams from Ketchikan, Sitka and Petersburg, Tompkins said.

Plus, assessing talent in game-like conditions is something that prolonged blasts of wintry weather have so far prevented for both teams.

Tompkins said the Falcons lack depth, and the tournament will be a chance to see players in action.

“We’re going to see what everyone’s got,” he said.

The Crimson Bears also have yet to take to a diamond.

“We haven’t been out on the baseball field yet,” Bentz said. “Mother Nature has been making it very difficult for us— everyone. All of the spring sports.”

However, both teams have been able to practice indoors, and while some questions will only be answered as the season unfolds, both coaches identified players they expect to be key contributors.

Bentz said he has high expectations for seniors who gained experience playing on or practicing with the 2018 JDHS team that won the state title. He named Brock McCormick, Garrett Bryant, Christian Ludeman and Olin Rawson as players to watch.

For Thunder Mountain, big things are expected from seniors Oliver Mendoza and Josh Carte, Tompkins said.

Thunder Mountain’s Oliver Mendoza catches a fly all against Sitka as then-teammate Bryson Echiverri ducks out of the way during the Region V Baseball Championship at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Friday, May 24, 2019. TMHS lost 1-7. Mendoza is expected to be a key contributor for the Falcons this year. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Thunder Mountain’s Oliver Mendoza catches a fly all against Sitka as then-teammate Bryson Echiverri ducks out of the way during the Region V Baseball Championship at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Friday, May 24, 2019. TMHS lost 1-7. Mendoza is expected to be a key contributor for the Falcons this year. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Additionally, juniors Peyton Lewis, Preston Williams and Isaiah Nelson are anticipated to play important roles.

Both coaches said they expect there to be some rust and are hopeful the weekend games serve as a learning experience.

“My goal for them this weekend is to enjoy the moment, play hard and get as much information as possible on what we need to work on going forward.,” Bentz said. “It’s a fun time, and I’m just very thankful all of the other spring sports are up and running.”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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