Thunder Mountain’s Nina Fenumiai, right, and Rachel Macaulay receive high-fives from Coach Brittany Gladsjo after beating Juneau-Douglas at Melvin Park earlier this month. Thunder Mountain plays Kodiak and North Pole in the state tournament today in Fairbanks. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Thunder Mountain’s Nina Fenumiai, right, and Rachel Macaulay receive high-fives from Coach Brittany Gladsjo after beating Juneau-Douglas at Melvin Park earlier this month. Thunder Mountain plays Kodiak and North Pole in the state tournament today in Fairbanks. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

JDHS baseball, TMHS softball hungry for state titles

Success can be fleeting at the ASAA baseball state championships.

Hopes of winning it all are quickly dashed if you don’t come to play. Lose in Thursday’s opening round, and you’ll finish no higher than fourth.

Juneau-Douglas High School fell into that fate last season when South Anchorage handed them a tournament-opening 12-2 loss, forcing the Crimson Bears to settle for fourth place.

Thus, JDHS’ Southeast Conference championship win on Saturday carried considerable importance. It awarded the Crimson Bears the conference’s top seed and ensured they would be playing the No. 2 seed in either the Cook Inlet, Southcentral or Mid Alaska conference.

They drew the Mid Alaska conference in the first round, and play the North Pole Patriots at 1 p.m. Thursday in Anchorage’s Mulcahy Stadium.

“Everything helps and we’re coming together finally,” JDHS coach Chad Bentz said. “All the cylinders are starting to go off … I’m excited to see what these guys can do. We’re a pretty good team and we’ll see if we can bring home some hardware.”

The Crimson Bears haven’t won a state championship since 2012. At that time, Kasey Watts and the rest of the senior class were still a few years from joining the team.

“Ever since Little League, our goal was, ‘I want to win a state championship for baseball,’ ‘I want to get that ring,’” Watts said. “That was one of my goals coming into high school: I just want to win one state championship. I didn’t care what (sport) it is. I just want to be part of the team and I just want to win it. Now that I know this is my last shot to do it at all, I think it’s real huge.”

While Watts doesn’t have a high school state championship to his name, he was part of the Juneau Post 25 team that claimed state supremacy in American Legion Baseball last summer.

Watts said his team has less room for error in this tournament. The American Legion tournament is double elimination, the high school one is single.

“Now it’s, ‘All right, no messing around this tournament,’” he said. “There’s no make-up game. … If you lose one, you’re out. So I think we know that every game counts and every team we play we can’t take lightly. We have to go full throttle no matter what.”

Thursday games

10 a.m.: West Valley vs. Ketchikan

1 p.m.: JDHS vs. North Pole

4 p.m.: Palmer vs. South Anchorage

7 p.m.: Chugiak vs. Colony

Softball preview

The Thunder Mountain High School softball team can win its third consecutive ASAA Division II state championship this week at Fairbanks’ South Davis Park.

TMHS is headed there after winning its third-consecutive Region V tournament. Saturday’s finale against Ketchikan, which knocked off Sitka in the semifinals, was called off due to inclement weather. Despite only getting two games out of the tournament, TMHS coach John Boucher isn’t worried about the volume of games that await his team this week (at least five).

“I think the format allows the girls to get acclimated,” he said.

The first day of the tournament is reserved for pool play. Each team plays two games on Thursday before moving on to double-elimination bracket play on Friday.

TMHS, the No. 1 seed from the Southeast Conference, shares Pool A with Kodiak, the No. 2 seed from the Northern Lights Conference, and North Pole, the No. 2 seed from the Mid Alaska Conference. The No. 2 Southeast team, Ketchikan, shares Pool B with Homer (No. 1 Northern Lights) and Delta Junction (No. 1 Mid Alaska).

The real challenge, Boucher said, is playing against brand new opponents. Kodiak and North Pole, who the Falcons play at noon and 5 p.m., are both unknowns. It’s been at least two years since TMHS played either one of those teams.

“We’re going to play some teams we haven’t faced and so there’s always the anticipation of the unknown,” he said.

Should the Falcons take care of business against the Bears (Kodiak) and Patriots (North Pole), they’ll receive a first-round bye in Friday’s action.

Last year, TMHS edged Juneau-Douglas High School 17-6 in the title game. In the same game the year before that, TMHS beat JDHS 14-6.

Should the Falcons get back to Saturday’s championship game, it won’t be JDHS opposing them. Based on their track record, the Falcons appear up for the challenge.

“It’s been a really successful season so far, and we’re looking forward to the weekend,” Boucher said.

Thursday games

Noon: Thunder Mountain vs. Kodiak; Homer vs. Delta Junction

2:30 p.m.: Kodiak vs. North Pole; Delta Junction vs. Ketchikan

5 p.m.: North Pole vs. Thunder Mountain; Ketchikan vs. Homer


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 532-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


Thunder Mountain’s Nina Fenumiai, right, and Rachel Macaulay receive high-fives from Coach Brittany Gladsjo after beating Juneau-Douglas at Melvin Park earlier this month. Thunder Mountain plays Kodiak and North Pole in the state tournament today in Fairbanks. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Thunder Mountain’s Nina Fenumiai, right, and Rachel Macaulay receive high-fives from Coach Brittany Gladsjo after beating Juneau-Douglas at Melvin Park earlier this month. Thunder Mountain plays Kodiak and North Pole in the state tournament today in Fairbanks. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

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