Trailing by one going into the seventh and final inning of Friday’s Region V semifinal, Kona Ogoy wasn’t worried about what the scoreboard showed.
Ogoy, a senior for the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé baseball team, had faith in his teammates.
“Our mindset was, ‘The game’s not over until the scoreboard turns off,’” Ogoy said.
Later in that inning, Ogoy crossed home plate to score what would prove to be the game-winning run for the Crimson Bears, who defeated Ketchikan 7-5 to advance to Saturday’s Region V finals.
All game, the two teams traded leads. Ketchikan struck first with a run in the second. Then JDHS scored two runs in the third to take the lead. Ketchikan scored twice in the fourth to change the lead again. JDHS scored a pair in the fifth. Then Ketchikan’s Wyatt Barajas launched a mammoth two-run home run in the sixth to put Ketchikan up 5-4 and place JDHS’ back firmly against the wall in the final inning.
The drama peaked as Austin McCurley stepped to the plate for the Bears with courtesy runner Malakai Nichols on third. As Ketchikan pitcher Brock King wound up, McCurley squared to bunt. McCurley executed perfectly, dropping a perfect bunt down the first-base line as Nichols sprinted home to tie the game.
“You practice that, you hope you can use that once or twice in a season,” JDHS coach Luke Adams said. “Boy, that came up big for us.”
The stands at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park erupted. The next batter, Garret Bryant, hit a ground ball up the middle that King knocked down but wasn’t able to hold on to. The shortstop picked the ball up and threw to first, too late to get Bryant. The throw also got by the first baseman, allowing Ogoy, who had singled earlier in the inning, to come around and score the go-ahead run. JDHS added one more to cushion its lead going into the bottom half of the inning.
Brock McCormick went from catching to pitching for the final inning, looking to save the victory for starting pitcher Olin Rawson. McCormick put down the Kings in order, sending the Crimson Bears to the regional title game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Petersburg and Sitka play Friday evening, and the winner will play Ketchikan on Saturday morning. The winner of that game will play JDHS in the final, and will have to beat JDHS twice to capture the championship.
Prior to Friday’s win, Ketchikan had defeated the Crimson Bears all three times they had played. Ogoy said that even in defeat, he and his teammates remained confident.
“We knew we could compete with these guys,” Ogoy said. “When they came down here a couple weeks ago and they swept us, it definitely didn’t feel good, but we knew we could hang with them and even beat them.”
Frustrating Falcons finale
It wasn’t the way anybody wanted their season — or high school career — to end. For the second day in a row, the Thunder Mountain High School baseball team couldn’t muster much at all on offense and managed just one run.
The Falcons were outscored by a total of 11-2 in their two games at the Region V baseball tournament this week, ending their season with a 7-1 loss to Sitka on Friday morning at Adair Kennedy Memorial Park in Juneau.
For the team’s trio of seniors, Friday’s game was a frustrating finale to their Falcons careers. The team gathered for almost half an hour after the game, coaches and players trading thoughts on the season. Falcons coach Bill McCauley said afterward that there were a few tears during the meeting, and that the three seniors — Cameron Eppers, Logan Lesmann and Chris San Nicolas — were particularly sad to see the season end.
“It’s just now dawning on them that it’s over, their high school baseball is over,” McCauley said. “It’s too soon, and they know it, so they’re also having regrets and things like that.”
San Nicolas was particularly frustrated after the game, lamenting that nobody wants to end their season with a 7-1 loss. He also said he wished he had taken every practice seriously and had given a little more during his career.
Lesmann, who pitched a complete game in Thursday’s loss and had a hit Friday, said he was still proud of his teammates.
“Falcons baseball is my life,” Lesmann said. “It was a pleasure playing, and I definitely met a lot of new people and made some friends along the way. It was probably the highlight of my high school career.”
Eppers was already looking to the future, even though he won’t be on the field for it. Thunder Mountain baseball, like all of the school’s athletic programs, is still fairly young and the culture is still building. Juneau-Douglas has a stronger program with a longer history, and the Falcons are still looking for a breakout season, Eppers said.
“Coming to TM, you think, ‘We’re going to be the first TM team to actually make a difference.’ That’s basically the goal,” Eppers said. “That didn’t happen for us, but we hope it happens for guys we played with and future Falcons.”