Thunder Mountain High School pitcher Jack Lovejoy catches a line-drive hit to end the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School pitcher Jack Lovejoy catches a line-drive hit to end the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School Falcons are conference champs, heading to state softball title tournament

TMHS rebounds from 19-12 loss in back-to-back Saturday games against Sitka, wins finale 9-3.

The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons are going out as the conference champs.

The softball team already knew it was going to the state title tournament at least as an at-large qualifier entering its matchup against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. At stake was the Region V Softball Championship which the Falcons could win either by prevailing in an initial game as the higher-bracket team, or in a final showdown if an initial Sitka victory turned the afternoon into a double-header.

The Falcons got off to an ominous start, trailing the Wolves 12-2 at the start of the fourth inning. But Thunder Mountain rallied to close the gap to 12-11 by the sixth inning before going on to lose the opener 19-12.

Then, in the finale, the Falcons asserted their dominance by jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning. Sitka scored two runs in the fourth inning, but TMHS did the same in the fifth inning to make the score 8-2, with each team adding another run to make the score 9-3 with Sitka at bat in the top of the seventh inning.

Thunder Mountain High School players and coaches celebrate after winning the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School players and coaches celebrate after winning the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

With the Wolves trying to make a desperate last stand with two outs, a pitch by TMHS senior Jack Lovejoy was hit straight back toward her as a line drive. Reaching high she snagged the ball a moment later to seal the game and the conference title for the Falcons.

“I just kind of reacted, but I wasn’t totally sure I was going to get it so I was a little surprised,” she said after the game.

Lovejoy pitched throughout the second game as well as part of the first, and said that while her team hit well once they got their bats going so did Sitka.

“They definitely hit really well and so I was nervous they were going to get some really good hits off me and they did, but I had my defense behind me,” she said.

This will be the final conference title for Thunder Mountain High School since all local students in grades 9-12 will be consolidated into Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (or alternative programs) starting next school year. TMHS Head Coach Barb Strong said after Saturday’s games the decidedly different outcomes were simply because “softball’s definitely a sport of momentum.”

“So sometimes when they started to hit the ball they passed the bat really well, and everybody sees the ball better and hits the ball better,” she said. “We hit the ball really well throughout all of our games with Sitka, we just hit it a lot directly to their players. And we had to find some gaps. And we finally found a couple gaps and our defense stayed tight, and we were able to pull (the win) off because they are an amazing team.”

The Thunder Mountain High School softball team poses with their Region V championship award after defeating Sitka High School on Saturday night at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Thunder Mountain High School softball team poses with their Region V championship award after defeating Sitka High School on Saturday night at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The ASAA Division II State Softball Championship is scheduled May 30-June 1 in Fairbanks. Last year the JDHS Crimson Bears won the state title in a 6-5 nail-biter against Sitka — and Strong said she won’t be surprised if a similar outcome occurs this year at state.

“Historically speaking our region tournament is more challenging than almost anything that we see up north,” she said. “The state championship lots of times comes down to the two teams from Southeast. There’s kids up there that play great ball, but just we historically have been just a little bit leveled up…Obviously the show (at state) is bigger and so the girls are a little bit more nervy, the weather is different and so we have that environment change to deal with, but once we get there things go pretty well.”

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

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