Senior Samanta Pak warms up with a teammate during Juneau-Douglas girls softball practice at Melvin Park on Tuesday.

Senior Samanta Pak warms up with a teammate during Juneau-Douglas girls softball practice at Melvin Park on Tuesday.

JDHS softball healthy, ready for season

The Juneau-Douglas High School softball team started their season last weekend with three games in Sitka, two conference tilts which they won 8-4 and 6-4, and a non-conference 2-4 loss.

Like their counterparts at Thunder Mountain High School, JDHS is a young team led by a core group of experienced seniors.

Seniors Samanta Pak, utility player; Quincy Bates, pitcher and third base; Amanda Bicknell, left and center field; and newcomer Isabell Bryant, utility and self-described “bench warmer,” lead a team of six freshmen, 10 sophomores and four juniors who open home schedule this week with games against Ketchikan High School at 7 p.m. Thursday and 5 p.m. Friday.

The girls have some big gaps to fill this year, but with Bates fully recovered from a torn ACL, and some exciting young players stepping up, they feel the state tournament isn’t out of reach.

“We’re just a really young team,” Bicknell said. “We have some freshmen that are really nervous, there was a bunch that were talking about how they were shaking in the first game. Us seniors were too, it’s still nerve-wracking.”

JDHS lost their top two pitchers and starting catcher from last year’s team. According to the seniors, filling those shoes is an ongoing process.

“We need utility players,” Bicknell said. “We had two players step up in outfield last week, and that was extreme. They weren’t confident in the outfield because it’s not their main position, but they did great. We need more of that.”

The senior girls reported that the freshmen are ready to work as a team and are adapting well. In Sitka the girls said they learned they are capable of more than they expected.

“We’re feeling pretty good with fielding right now,” Bates said.

“Our defense is pretty strong,” Bicknell said, adding that they need to work on their bats and base running.

This week’s tests against Ketchikan will measure what kind of potential JDHS has as Ketchikan rosters more seniors than either Juneau team. Kayhi opened their season with two wins and a loss at home to TMHS last weekend.

Between the three teams, this year’s Region V softball competition should be a tight race as all three have a shot at heading to the state tournament.

Both of JDHS’ conference games take place at Melvin Park field #2. They play in the non-conference Juneau Invitational Softball Tournament all day Saturday hosting Ketchikan, Sitka High School and Homer High School at Melvin Park field and Dimond Park.

JDHS plays Homer at 8:30 a.m.; Ketchikan at 9:50 a.m.; TMHS at 11:10 a.m.; Sitka at 1:15 p.m.; and Sitka again at 3:55 p.m. Saturday.

A full schedule for the tournament is available in the Empire’s sports calendar on page B2.