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Sitka softball to defend state title as number one seed

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SITKA, ALASKA
Coach Bob Potrzuski says the tough competition in Southeast has improved his team, who lost only one senior last year.

 “Ketchikan, if they are not the best small school, they’re certainly the second-best. We’ve played them eight times. We’ve played Juneau-Douglas four times. We’ve played tremendous teams, measured ourselves against the best, and come up pretty favorably.”

In addition to besting Ketchikan, the Sitka girls also beat Thunder Mountain twice, and split a pair of games with Juneau-Douglas High School. JDHS plays in the large school division, but that didn’t prove much of an obstacle to Sitka, who were ahead by 12 runs when the umpire called the game after four innings.

In the second game against Juneau, Potrzuski says he opted to play more conservatively, and his opponents had figured out Sitka’s home field “disadvantage.”

 “One of the problems playing in Sitka is that our fence is 238 feet – just huge – in the game that we lost 6 – 1 against Juneau, Katie Hagen hit four balls that should have been home runs. But because Juneau figured out that they could just stand back at the fence and take a few steps in, they can contain Katie. If we get to the state tournament hitting the ball we way we are now, there’s no telling how many home runs we’re going to hit.”

The Lady Wolves will open the state small schools tournament in Anchorage this Friday against either Soldotna or Eielson, who are both ranked second in their respective conferences. Potzruski says his team will continue to wear the safety equipment they adopted early in the season, after sophomore pitcher Laurel Raschick was hit in the face by a batted ball, and suffered five fractures in the bones around her eye.

 “Really the coolest dynamic is that all the pitchers are now wearing face masks. My own daughter was reluctant to wear one until the rest of the team looked at her and said, You’re wearing a mask. End of story. I like the fact that our girls are playing at a very high level, but wearing the mask. Laurel wears one in the field as well.”

If the Lady Wolves succeed at state, this would be their second title in two years with Bob Potzruski as head coach. The Lady Wolves also won in 2005, when Potzruski was assistant coach. He says, “We’re trying to catch up with the boys.”

Meanwhile, the Sitka baseball team is also headed to state, but as the number two seed. The Wolves went 2-2 over the weekend, blowing out Ketchikan 21 – 6, and then narrowly getting by Juneau 2 – 1. Senior Cameron O’Neill pitched a complete game in the duel. A solo home run by Jake Licari helped give him the win.

In Saturday’s games against Juneau, the Wolves took leads into the seventh innings, but could not pull out the wins. They lost 7 – 8 and 10 – 11.

Still, it was good enough to earn the Sitka boys the second berth at the state tournament, which, unlike softball, is not classified into large- and small-schools. The Wolves will open against Dimond at 7 PM Thursday at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer.
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