At the start of the day Saturday, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé baseball team was undefeated in the Region V tournament.
Two mercy-rule losses later, the Crimson Bears had to settle for runner-up trophies.
Ketchikan beat JDHS 14-2 and then 15-2 to capture the tournament title. Both teams are heading to the state tournament. Coach Luke Adams said the feeling after the game was bittersweet.
“I’m proud that we got a berth in the state tournament, but our effort and execution today is not where it needs to be to compete next week at the state tournament,” Adams said postgame. “Be ready to practice on Monday, go back to the basics.”
Ketchikan hit a grand slam in each game, sparking explosive offensive performances.
In the first inning of Saturday’s first meeting between the Kings and Crimson Bears, Ketchikan’s Wyatt Barajas flew out on a long fly ball to right field.
One inning later, Barajas hit a ball in the same direction, but this time he got all of it. The ball sailed far over the fence for a grand slam, sparking an offensive explosion for the Kings. That highlighted Ketchikan’s 14-2 win, forcing the winner-take-all final game Saturday evening.
The next game, it was Liam Kiffer’s turn to clear the bases. In the eight-run fourth inning, he launched a grand slam over the fence in left-center.
Ketchikan had the best record in Region V this season, meaning that the Kings automatically qualify for the state tournament. The runner-up in the Region V tournament also goes to the state tournament (if they lose to Ketchikan in the title game), so the Crimson Bears are heading to the state tournament, win or lose against Ketchikan.
Prior to the loss to Ketchikan on Saturday afternoon, the Crimson Bears were undefeated in the tournament. The team that comes out of the losers’ bracket — Ketchikan, in this case — had to beat the team from the winners’ bracket twice to capture the regional crown, which is why the two teams played one more game Saturday.
The Kings beat JDHS all three times they played in the regular season, but the Crimson Bears got their revenge in the Region V semifinals, winning a wild 7-5 game that required the Bears to come from behind in the final inning.
JDHS coach Luke Adams said Ketchikan is tough to go up against, and it’s always a competitive game when JDHS and Ketchikan face off against each other.
“It’s a great rivalry and any time you can steal a game from Ketchikan it’s a good accomplishment,” Adams said after Friday’s game, “because they’re one a heck of a team, they’re well coached, they have fearless players and they’ve got a lot of seniors on that team that toe the line.”
After falling to JDHS on Friday, Ketchikan beat Sitka on Saturday morning to stay alive and go to the title game. The Kings scored first in the rematch with the Crimson Bears, but JDHS answered in the bottom of the first inning with two runs to take the lead.
Ketchikan responded in a big way in the top of the second, scoring five runs, including four on Barajas’ grand slam. Barajas had also launched a towering home run against the Bears the previous day.
The floodgates really opened in the sixth inning, when the Kings scored seven runs. Kiffer, the starting pitcher in that game, hit a home run to lead off the frame, and the momentum continued as his team batted around.
JDHS didn’t score in the bottom of the inning, and the game ended as a result of the mercy rule.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.