By early Saturday afternoon it was clear Juneau would be taking home the small school softball state championship, but one gnawing question still remained: which Juneau team?
Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School faced off for the softball state title Saturday afternoon, capping an excellent weekend for both teams with historic firsts for TMHS. It was the first state title game for any TMHS team and the first time two Juneau teams played for a state title.
To add to the drama, TMHS had beaten JDHS for the first time in program history earlier this season and had already done so in the morning’s semifinal.
The writing on the wall was clear: TMHS was the team of destiny. The outcome fit the season’s narrative with TMHS securing the 14-6 win after a shootout of a game.
“We’re all on cloud nine right now, we’re so happy,” said Falcons senior Tracy Bourassa. “Most of us are saying we can’t believe it but we worked our butts off to take that title home. It’s a great thing to take back home to our school and family and just represent TM.”
Bourassa said she knew they had a chance when her team tied the game 6-6 after going down 6-3 in the third.
“We were a little bit down but I feel like when we’re down and we go up to bat, our anger comes out and we fight our way back every time,” she said.
Though the Falcons earned their crucial lead in the fourth, they sealed the game with a five-run effort in the fifth, which more than doubled JDHS’ score and invoked the eight-run mercy rule. The winning run came off a passed ball that brought freshman Nina Fenumiai in for the triumphant run home and the embrace of her celebrating teammates.
Junior Alondra Echiverri led the Falcons from the plate with three RBIs on a 4-4 performance. Echiverri was selected to the all-tournament team along with TMHS senior Taylor Beardslee and JDHS junior Sami Good and sophomore Morgan Balovich.
“We’re feeling pretty good right now, really pumped,” Echiverri said. “I’m really proud right now and I’m glad we’re making history for our school. It’s pretty cool to be the first team to do that.”
TMHS head coach Jorge Cordero couldn’t have been prouder of his team.
“I’m flying high!” Cordero said. “It was a little tough in the beginning, but we came back and put them away. Parents, kids, everybody’s excited, I’m just happy for our program. It’s a big boost for the school, that’s huge and I am glad it’s our team. It put us on the map.”
Having rested while JDHS played a losers bracket final, TMHS looked fresh at the start of the game, pushing to a 3-0 lead in the first inning off a two-RBI double by Alondra Echiverri and a sacrifice fly by Peyton Harp.
After scoring one in the top of the second, JDHS tied the game 3-3 in the third when Amanda Bicknell hit a two-RBI grounder to right field, and then took a 6-3 lead with an RBI single from Mia Loree and a two-RBI line drive by Samanta Pak.
Thunder Mountain came back and tied the game in the third as they packed the bags with no outs leading to three runs on RBIs from Tracy Bourassa, Nina Fenumiai and Megan Dallas.
A wacky play in the bottom of the fourth allowed TMHS to again take the lead with a three-run infield grounder.
Echiverri hit a slow grounder down the right field line with the ball staying barely in play. JDHS overthrew the ball to first, allowing runners on second and third to score while Echiverri rounded home for the three-RBI bunt.
“I don’t even know how that happened,” Echiverri said. “I thought I was going to be out. I wasn’t really paying attention, just trying to make it to first before the ball did and I saw my teammate Maxie (Saceda-Hurt) was almost all the way to third and I still see Hayleigh (Dicarlo) still at third so I was really confused. … I just remember running really hard around the bases and nobody had the ball so I just kept going.”
JDHS coach Dave Massey said his girls are feeling good about how they responded to the adversity the tournament threw at them.
“I am very very proud of them. There’s no quit in these girls,” Massey said, adding that he was excited for TMHS and to see Juneau softball so well-represented. “Both teams were kinda halfway rooting for each other. It’s been a long road for Jorge and his coaching staff so I am happy for them.”
The JDHS girls played an extra game before the championship and dealt with a slew of injuries.
“I don’t think any of us have been more tired, ever, but we played through knowing it was some of our last years together,” said Amanda Bicknell.
The long weekend for each team’s pitchers showed its toll with coaches from both teams forced to make tough pitching choices during the game. TMHS pulled their starting pitcher Beardslee in the third for Makayla Harp while JDHS replaced Leah Spargo — who’d pitched 12 innings in two days — for Elisa Fabrello in the fourth, though JDHS coach Dave Massey put Spargo back in the game in the fifth inning.
“It was a hard choice for me to take Taylor (Beardslee) out,” Cordero said. “She did a good job for us all season. Last night, against Hutchison, I kept her the whole game and she pitched so well but it was a tough game. She deserved the whole game.”
Beardslee anchored the Falcons pitching all season.
“Throughout the tournament, Taylor’s pitching really helped us,” Echiverri said.