Members of the Thunder Mountain High School softball team pose for a shot following their 18-0 victory against North Pole High School on Friday during the Division II Alaska School Activities Association Softball State Championships in Fairbanks. (Thunder Mountain Softball photo)

Members of the Thunder Mountain High School softball team pose for a shot following their 18-0 victory against North Pole High School on Friday during the Division II Alaska School Activities Association Softball State Championships in Fairbanks. (Thunder Mountain Softball photo)

Final flight of the TMHS Falcons ends with 6-4 loss on final day of state softball tournament

“It’s been a fun ride,” coach says as team wins conference title, goes 29-12 during its final season.

The final flight of the Falcons’ softball team wasn’t quite high enough, as it came up short in a 6-4 loss to Delta Junction High School during the final day of the Division II Alaska School Activities Association Softball State Championships in Fairbanks on Saturday.

The loss marks the end of Thunder Mountain High School’s athletic program since all local students in grades 9-12 will be consolidated into Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé or alternative programs beginning with the coming school year.

The Falcons’ softball team finished their final season as the Region V conference champions and notched a trio of dominating wins in the state tournament, but a couple of close losses kept them from claiming the crown.

“It for sure didn’t end the way that we wanted it to,” TMHS Head Coach Barb Strong said. “But the girls worked hard. They stuck together. We had a few issues, we had one girl get sick, and so we had to shuffle things around. And we just couldn’t quite put the pieces together.”

The Falcons defeated Delta Junction 8-0 in their opening game state tournament Thursday, then needed only five innings to top Soldotna High School 16-1 later that day to conclude pool play. But TMHS stumbled in its first bracket game on Friday, losing 9-8 to Kodiak High School in a game where the Bears jumped out to an early lead.

“They came out strong and they were hitting the ball really, really well,” Strong said. After TMHS changed pitchers “their hitting slowed down a lot, and then we found a rhythm and started hitting the ball. We just ran out of innings before we could get the job done.”

But the Falcons weren’t done yet. Later on Friday they turned in their most dominant performance of the tournament in an 18-0 victory over North Pole High School to ensure they remained in contention on the final day of the tournament.

Whatever happens to the returning Falcons players who will become JDHS Crimson Bears next year, Strong won’t be a part of the outcome. She said she chose not to apply for a coaching job at JDHS due to the longtime presence of coach Lexie Razor at that school.

“I’m going to have to find a new hobby,” Strong said. However, while her daughter and Falcons’ catcher Kara is graduating this year “I’ll always be a softball fan and I’ll be at all the JD games here.”

Looking back on the Falcons’ final season that ended with a 29-12 record, Strong said “it’s been a fun ride.”

“We had good trips, we had good times, we had crazy times,” she said. “We had teenagers who sometimes behave like teenagers. They work hard. There’s tons of growth. I mean the funnest part I think about being a coach is getting to see that growth, especially when you get a freshman, and the difference between the 14-year-old freshmen and 18-year-old senior sometimes feels like so much more than four years. And so you get to see that growth and you get to see the seniors that you coached as freshmen, and now they’re the leaders and it’s just a fun circle.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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