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By A.J. JANKOWSKI
Daily News Sports Editor
The bats and defense came alive to compliment the Ketchikan High School baseball team’s strong pitching, and in seven hours Saturday afternoon, the Kings won as many games as they did in the 2012 regular season.
Led by strong starting pitching from Colton Paulsen, Torin Oaksmith and Joe Berry, Kayhi defeated Juneau-Douglas, 9-2, before disposing of Petersburg by a pair of lopsided scores at Norman Walker Field.
Not to be outdone, the Kings offense produced 40 runs in three games, as Kayhi improved its record from 1-3 to 4-3 in one day.
"It’s just good to see the guys bounce back," said head coach Andy Berntson, whose team’s last game before Saturday was a 19-7 defeat to the Crimson Bears Thursday. "After Thursday, it would have been easy to say, ‘Oh well, the weather was bad. We lost again. Woe is me.’ But they came out (Saturday), and played real well."
In the first game of the day, Paulsen dominated Juneau-Douglas on the mound. The left-handed junior pitched 6 1/3 innings, striking out 11 — including two in each of the first five innings.
"I felt great," Paulsen said. "Every batter coming up, I just said, 'Keep ‘em coming.'"
It was the second straight quality start of the season from Paulsen, who pitched five innings of three-hit baseball in a no-decision loss to South Anchorage last week in Sitka.
"He pitched very well," said Berntson of Paulsen’s performance Saturday. "He had some walks, but he got himself out of jams. He had really good command."
Paulsen got plenty of offensive support, as the Kings scored five runs in the third on a bases-loaded walk, an error and RBI hits by Berry, Nathan Bonck and Oaksmith.
Leading 6-1 in the sixth, Kayhi struck for three more on an RBI double by Paulsen, and run-scoring singles by Brien Auger and Dalton Spear.
According to Paulsen, beating the Crimson Bears by seven in a non-conference game was a boost of momentum after falling to them by 12 in a sloppy game Thursday — the teams’ only conference meeting of the weekend.
"I knew we should have won that game," he said. "So (Saturday's) game was all about pride. It was non-conference, but I don't really care, I just wanted to win."
Paulsen allowed a leadoff walk in the seventh, and after getting an out, he was replaced by Omar Mendoza, who allowed a sacrifice fly before getting the final two outs.
Juneau-Douglas got on the board first in the second inning, when the Bears had runners on the corners with two outs. Paulsen attempted to pick off the runner at first, but the ball eluded Auger, and the run from third came home to score.
"That’s definitely not what I wanted to see there," said Berntson, as the Kings were one strike away from ending the inning unscathed. "Especially when you’re pitching so well. A lot of games in our conference will come down to that one run. This one didn’t, which I guess goes to show how well (Paulsen) pitched."
Paulsen ended the inning with a strikeout, and Bonck delivered a one-out double to right field in the bottom of the inning to score Berry and tie the game.
The RBI double wasn’t the only charge Bonck put into a ball on the day, either. In the first game against Petersburg — a continuation of Friday’s game that was rained out after two innings — the freshman launched a home run over the right-field fence in the fifth inning.
"The kid's awesome," said Paulsen of Bonck. "He's a big lefty with power. I love watching him bat.
"He reminds me of me as a freshman, but better."
The Kings won the game 12-2 as Oaksmith pitched a complete game, and Luc Wilford hit a walk-off double to induce the 10-run mercy rule.
Kayhi kept the momentum going in the nightcap, defeating the Vikings 19-5 in five innings in the final home game until the region tournament May 24-25.
Considering how the homestand began Thursday, the Kings couldn’t have ended it Saturday on a higher note.
"At home, you want to play solid — especially when you’ve only got one shot at home in the regular season," Berntson said. "There were some plays we definitely should have made that we didn’t, but we were able to take advantage of some solid pitching. And the bats finally caught up, and that gave us a cushion."