Thunder Mountain High School senior pitcher Ashlyn Gates delivers a pitch during the Falcons 10-9 win over the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior pitcher Ashlyn Gates delivers a pitch during the Falcons 10-9 win over the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Falcons earn wet 10-9 senior night softball win over Crimson Bears

Non-conference crosstown clash has no effect on standings

The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons defeated the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears 10-9 in a non-conference softball clash Tuesday in the rain at the Dimond Park Fields. This was the final home senior night for the Falcons softball program as TMHS will be merged into JDHS next school year.

“It has been an emotional year for the girls with the news of our school closing along with having such a core group of seniors and all of the emotions that go along with graduating,” TMHS head coach Barb Strong said. “They are doing great though. Last year we were missing leadership and maturity and those gaps have been filled this year.”

The Falcons honored seniors Jenna Dobson, Ashlyn Gates, Jack Lovejoy, Aliza Mesdag and Kara Strong before the game.

Thunder Mountain High School senior Jenna Dobson is tagged out on a steal attempt at third base by Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior Kiya Yadao during the Falcons 10-9 win over the Crimson Bears on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior Jenna Dobson is tagged out on a steal attempt at third base by Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior Kiya Yadao during the Falcons 10-9 win over the Crimson Bears on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Dobson, a captain, plays second base and currently has the highest batting average on the team at .561.

“She has done a great job of setting an example of how we expect players to behave on and off the field,” Coach Strong said. “She’s a tenacious kid and is one of the few that keeps her eye on the big picture and the details all at the same time.”

Said Dobson,“I’ve been playing softball since I was six years old. Playing high school softball was always something I dreamed about. This team has been like a family. We’ve grown up playing together and traveled to Oregon and Anchorage and now it is just like the final ride for us. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. And playing against JD, we’ve known those girls for a long time and played since we were little. Having that crosstown and all that has been such a blessing. It has just been a great experience to grow up in this softball community.”

Gates, a shortstop and pitcher, has hit two home runs this season.

“She reads the ball well off the bat and regularly covers more ground than I think is possible,” Coach Strong said. “Ashlyn has a positive attitude and an amazing work ethic. From an athleticism standpoint she is the girl that sets the standard for what everyone else on the team is trying to get to.”

Thunder Mountain High School senior catcher Kara Strong awaits a pitch as Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior batter Mila Hargrave swings during the Falcons 10-9 win over the Crimson Bears on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior catcher Kara Strong awaits a pitch as Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior batter Mila Hargrave swings during the Falcons 10-9 win over the Crimson Bears on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Said Gates, “Through all these years I have seen these girls grow up and graduate, all these amazing role models, and I just never thought it was going to be us. We’re graduating and life is hitting me with this last senior night. I’m just really thankful I got to play with these people for so long and have these bonds with them that I will remember forever. I don’t think I will ever be able to have the same thing with anyone else because there are just connections that you can’t make with anybody else through sports.”

Lovejoy pitches, and plays first base or right field.

“She stays calm under pressure and exudes confidence that only comes with experience,” Coach Strong said. “She’s a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball as she also hits and slaps well.”

Said Lovejoy, “I’m just really thankful to have been able to grow up with such a great softball community and make so many lifelong friends. I’ve known everybody for a decade, even the people on JD, and it has just been really fun. I’m glad we’re here and got to play this last season, even if it is the last one.”

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior Tristan Oliva slides safely into second base past Thunder Mountain High School shortstop Ashlyn Gates on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior Tristan Oliva slides safely into second base past Thunder Mountain High School shortstop Ashlyn Gates on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Mesdag only started playing softball as a freshman.

“That puts her about a decade behind the other seniors on our team,” Coach Strong said. “She has worked hard and earned her spot as one of our starting outfielders. She reads the ball well and always has a positive attitude. She helps keep the vibe of the team headed in the right direction and notoriously has the healthiest snacks.”

Said Mesdag, “I didn’t actually plan to play. I just tried it and ended up falling in love with it. I started off terrified of the sport but now it has grown on me and I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to play with.”

K. Strong is a captain, starting catcher and leads the Falcons with 33 runs batted in this season.

“She does a great job of including everyone regardless of grade or ability,” Coach Strong said. “I’m pretty sure it is her quest to make everyone understand the minutiae of the game within the game the way she does. You can bet that when Kara is in the room everyone is laughing about something.”

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior center fielder Chloe Casperson catches a Thunder Mountain High School fly ball during the Crimson Bears 10-9 loss to the Falcons on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior center fielder Chloe Casperson catches a Thunder Mountain High School fly ball during the Crimson Bears 10-9 loss to the Falcons on Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Said K. Strong, “My mom has been my coach for four years and that is special. And I got to play with my sister Sydney my freshman year and got to go to state with a fun group of girls. It is crazy this is our last year all together. I’ve been catching for Jack and Ash since I was five so it has been 13 years playing together.”

JDHS seniors Chloe Casperson, Julia Felix, Mila Hargrave, Tristan Oliva, Nisha Qurbonmamadova and Kiah Yadao were also recognized by the Falcons.

Trailing 8-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning the Falcons scored eight runs to take a 10-8 lead. Gates and Mesdag scored on a ground ball by junior Bryanna Eakes to pull to 8-4; Sophomore Alayna Echiverri singled in freshman Taylor Williams for 8-5; Freshman Lily Hayes singled in Eakes and Echiverri for 8-7; Gates singled in Hayes for 8-8; K. Strong walked to score Lovejoy and Mesdag walked scoring Dobson.

Thunder Mountain High School softball seniors Aliza Mesdag, Ashlyn Gates, Kara Strong, Jenna Dobson and Jack Lovejoy huddle in the dugout before their final career home game Tuesday against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball seniors Aliza Mesdag, Ashlyn Gates, Kara Strong, Jenna Dobson and Jack Lovejoy huddle in the dugout before their final career home game Tuesday against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

JDHS got a run back in the top of the seventh inning as freshman Brynn Wheeler hit a one-out double, freshman Skylar Oliva walked, Hargrave walked to load the bases. After an infield fly out Wheeler stole home to pull within 10-9 but TMHS’ Gates threw three straight strikes to end the game.

“We are a pretty new team,” JDHS’ Yadao said. “We just have to accept who we have and just learn. I hope next year the underclassmen do better than we are now. But I love them, we are definitely improving from the beginning of the season. Our goal is to just win some games and with regions coming up we are going to push hard.”

JDHS scored the first run of the game in the top of the second inning as freshman June Troxel walked, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on an error. TMHS tied the score in the bottom half as K. Strong doubled, was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Braith Dihle who scored on a Williams ground ball.

JDHS added four runs in the third inning as Casperson hit a bases-loaded single, scoring freshman courtesy runner Taylor Petrie and Hargrave, junior Ella Schmidt walked, scoring Yadao and freshman Cassie Chenoweth singled, scoring Casperson.

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Jack Lovejoy and family and friends during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Jack Lovejoy and family and friends during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

TMHS scored a run in the bottom of the fourth as Eakes walked with the bases loaded scoring Dihle to trail 5-2.

JDHS scored three runs in the top of the sixth as Wheeler doubled, freshman Skylar Oliva reached on an error, Hargrave doubled them both across the plate and Yadao doubled in Hargrave for the 8-2 advantage.

Falcons’ Lovejoy, Gates, K. Strong, Echiverri and Hayes led with one hit each; Eakes had three RBI, Hayes two, Gates, K. Strong, Mesdag, Williams and Echiverri one each; Mesdag earned three walks, Dobson and K. Strong two apiece, Gates, Williams, and Eakes one each.

Crimson Bears’ Wheeler and Hargrave led with two hits apiece, Yadao, Casperson, Troxel and Chenoweth one each; Hargrave and Casperson had two RBI apiece, Yadao, Schmidt and Chenoweth one each; Hargrave earned three walks, Oliva, Troxel and Schmidt two each.

Thunder Mountain High School softball seniors and coaches during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball seniors and coaches during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Lovejoy started in the circle for the Falcons, going two innings, allowing three hits and five runs, walking six batters and striking out five. Gates earned the win in five innings of relief, allowing five hits and four runs, waking three and striking out nine.

Oliva took the loss for the Crimson Bears over six innings, allowing five hits and 10 runs, walking 10 and striking out one.

Tuesday’s game had no effect on the Southeast Conference standings. TMHS is 4-2 in the SEC and 23-6 overall; Sitka is 4-2 SEC, 19-5 OA; Ketchikan 2-4 SEC, 19-11-2; and JDHS 2-4 SEC, 9-11 OA. The Falcons play at Sitka and the Crimson Bears at Kayhi this weekend to end the regular season.

“We need to keep hitting,” JDHS coach Alexandra Razor said. “It finally feels like the girls are hitting like they can and we need that to continue through this weekend, taking us into regions.”

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Jenna Dobson and family during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Jenna Dobson and family during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

The conference winner gets an automatic bid to state and then the winner of the SEC region tournament gets a bid. If the conference winner wins the tournament then the team that gets 2nd place goes to state.

JDHS will host the SEC double-elimination tournament May 23-25 at Melvin Park Field. The state tournament is May 30-June 1 in Fairbanks.

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Ashlyn Gates and family and friends during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Ashlyn Gates and family and friends during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé softball seniors during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé softball seniors during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Kara Strong and family during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, for the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Kara Strong and family during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, for the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Aliza Mesdag and family during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School softball senior Aliza Mesdag and family during Falcons senior appreciation Tuesday at Dimond Park Fields. (Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire)

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