Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé junior Kiah Yadao was a force in the circle for the Crimson Bears as they held off home field hosts Sitka 9-6 in the Region V Softball Tournament championship game, Saturday, at Sitka’s Moller Field.
“This is our first Region V tournament championship since this tournament started,” JDHS coach Lexi Razor said. “So we are all excited about it.”
JDHS had the best regular season conference record and had already qualified for the state championships next weekend but the Region V tournament was most desired.
“It is really nice,” said Razor. “We definitely have some things we need to work on but we have a solid team and they are coming together well and I think they have what they need to do it.”
Yadao showed a lot of what the Crimson Bears had facing 28 batters across 6.2 innings, allowing four hits and four runs, walking one and striking out five.
“She did really well,” Said Razor. “This is the most she has pitched in a game. She had good command, she was focused and she was hitting pretty well also. It was a good day for her.”
After leading early 7-0, the Crimson Bears found themselves up just 7-6 after a sixth inning rally by the Lady Wolves.
“It was nerve-racking game,” said Razor. “It was a little too close for comfort but we started off hitting so that was helpful.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning JDHS junior Mila Hargrave led off with a single to left field and was replaced by sophomore pinch runner Tatum Billings who advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball. Yadao earned a one out walk and senior courtesy runner Bailey Hansen replaced her on base. A defensive interference call advanced Hansen to second. Senior Gloria Bixby earned a walk to load the bases. Senior Zoey Billings hit a long sacrifice fly to center field for an out that scored Tatum Billings for an 8-6 lead. Sophomore Taiya Bentz was hit by a pitch to load the bases again and junior Chloe Casperson was hit by a pitch to score Hansen for a 9-6 lead.
The JDHS defense held as Yadao got Sitka’s Kaleena Tucker to line out to Crimson Bears freshman third baseman Nizich and Sitka’s Dalila Callahan to ground out to Nizich for two outs.
Yadao gave up a walk to Sitka’s Harley Nelson but Nizich buckled down on the corner to field the game ending third out on a ground ball hit by Adriana Denkiner.
“She has had a really good season,” Said Razor of Nizich. “She just started starting for us the last few weekends and has been figuring things out at third base which is exciting. She had a rough game on Thursday but she put it together, she took our feedback and she has been doing really well there.”
JDHS senior Anna Dale provided the Crimson Bears leadership behind the plate, catching Yadao and providing a strong bat as well.
“I think this is pretty cool,” Dale said of the regular season and Region V championship distinctions. “I don’t know if another team has done this and I know we haven’t won regions before so it was a lot of fun making history I guess.”
When asked if her catching hand was sore after being Yadao’s battery mate Dale said, “I am pretty used to her. She threw a pretty good game and even that inning where we had a few errors she stuck with it and kept throwing strikes. She did a really good job.”
Yadao led JDHS with two RBI, Dale, Zoey Billings, Carlynn Casperson and Chloe Casperson one each. Nizich and Dale led with two hits apiece, Hargrave, Yadao, Zoey Billings and Chloe Casperson one each. Dale scored two runs, Gwen Nizich, Hargrave, senior Mariah Schauwecker and Zoey Billings one each. Bixby earned two walks, Hargrave, Zoey Billings and Carlynn Casperson one each.
Schauwecker relieved in the circle for one out, allowed four hits and three runs.
JDHS started their scoring in the bottom of the second inning as Schauwecker and Yadao were hit by pitches. Courtesy runner Hansen subbed for Yadao and Bixby popped out but Schauwecker scored on an error. Z. Billings walked and stole second while Hansen stole home for a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning senior Anna Dale hit a one out double, Hargrave earned a walk and Yadao hit a line drive double to center field scoring Dale and Hargrave for 4-0.
In the bottom of the fourth inning freshman Gwen Nizich hit a one out single and advanced to third base on errors. Dale hit a line drive to left field scoring Nizich, advanced on a passed ball and scored one out later on another passed ball for 6-0.
JDHS put another run across in the bottom of the fifth inning with Billings hitting a one out single, advancing on a walk to senior Carlynn Casperson and a bunt by junior Chloe Casperson and scoring on a single by Nizich for 7-0.
JDHS relief pitcher Schauwecker entered the circle in the top of the sixth inning and Sitka made a storied rally.
The Lady Wolves Kaleena Tucker singled, Dalila Callahan singled and Harley Nelson singled to score Tucker to trail 7-1 and Adriana Denkiner singled to score Callahan for 7-2.
JDHS returned Yadao to the circle and Sitka’s Naia Nelson reached on an error scoring Harley Nelson for 7-3. Allyson Mayville singled and N. Nelson stole third and scored on an error for 7-4 and Alina Lebahn doubled scoring Mayville for 7-5. Madison Campbell rapped a two out ground ball that was mishandled and reached on an error that scored Lebahn to bring the game at 7-6 and setting the stage for the final inning stand by the Crimson Bears.
Sitka’s Callahan pitched three innings, allowed two hits and four runs, walked three and struck out one. Campbell relieved for 2.1 innings, allowed six hits and five runs, walked two and struck out two.
Sitka’s H. Nelson, Denkiner and Lebahn had one RBI each. Callahan had two hits, Steinson, H. Nelson, Denkiner, Mayville and Lebahn one each.Tucker, Callahan, H. Nelson, N. Nelson, Mayville and Lebahn scored one run each.
The 2023 ASAA Softball State Championships are June 1-3 at Anchorage’s Carte Fields.