Once a year, Dudley Field becomes a place where current and former Ketchikan High School softball players congregate.
Those that have graduated dust off their mitts, and those still in high school pick them back up again.
The Ketchikan softball alumni game becomes a sandlot matchup, of sorts — even those who aren’t Kayhi grads are invited. The day is centered more around having fun than who wins or loses, or who’s playing for each side.
And in a summer that’s needed every ounce of fun it could squeeze out during these rainy days — an atypical summer in so many ways — Sunday, Aug. 2 provided that outlet for anyone who’s needed a game to play.
“I’ve never played with anyone but (my teammates), so it was kind of fun playing with my coaches.” Jhaelah Schultz said.
It was Schultz’s first year on the alumni side. A regular behind the plate during her first three years in a maroon and white jersey — as part of Ketchikan’s battery, catching day-in and day-out —Schultz is one of several Lady Kings’ players whose senior season was cut short this year due to the novel coronavirus.
“It was definitely weird because basically my whole spring, everything revolves around softball,” she said. “I’m homeschooled, so that’s when I socialize. All of my (free) time is dedicated to softball.”
Schultz walked off Dudley Field a winner in the alumni game, alongside her coaches, 15-4.
“Everyone on the alumni side was saying, ‘This was fun; this was a good game, regardless of the score,’” Kalea Allen said.
This past spring was supposed to be Allen’s first year in charge of the Lady Kings’ softball team.
“Every inning, everyone was having fun — getting outs (in the field) and getting hits,” she continued. “If we played nine innings, it could’ve been a different score.”
The two sides only played seven innings. Two more frames might’ve given the current Lady Kings a chance to play catch-up. But it also might’ve given the alumni side a chance to widen their lead.
Either way, the score wasn’t the primary focus.
“It was good to see the players who should’ve played this year on the alumni side, and then the players who will be back next year put up a good fight against us oldies,” Allen said. “It was actually one of the more competitive alumni games, I would say, just because the pitching on both sides was pretty decent.”
The term “oldies” was used loosely. Allen recently celebrated her 27th birthday.
“We had some good alumni pitchers, and the pitchers on the other side have been conditioned playing Little League all summer. So it was a pretty good duel,” she said.
Ketchikan Little League has been able to play games throughout the summer, so softball players who were freshmen or sophomores this past school year at Kayhi were in midseason form.
“They’re in the zone,” Allen said. “They’re used to playing a game or two a week, and getting their reps in. But I feel like the alumni game might’ve been a little bit more competitive than what they’re used to in Little League. So it was good to see them step it up a little bit.”
The Lady Kings’ head coach took notice of the opposing team’s adjustments — which is her 2021 squad.
“I was impressed,” Allen said. “They did a good job. Some of the corrections we’ve been trying to make over the offseason and this year, some of them were making them on their own. So it was good to see some of those adjustments (during) play today.”
The alumni side didn’t do too bad, either.
“I kind of felt like my loyalties were cut down the center because my friends and my cousins were on (the other) team,” Schultz said. “And these are my coaches.”
But the coaches were glad to have the Class of 2020 on their side.
“It was nice to have them back and play with us,” Allen said. “Although it might’ve been a few months since they’ve really swung the bat or played catch, they came out here just like it was another softball day, and it was second nature to them. So it was cool to play with them.”
Although not everyone from this year’s senior class played in the alumni game, Schultz, along with Breanna Gentry, Erika Rauwolf, Kiara Hodges, Lianne Guevarra and Madison Purcell all certainly had their moments in a Ketchikan uniform.
“I guess this is like one last hoorah,” Schultz said.
That is, until next year’s alumni softball game.
“We had a pretty good turnout,” Allen said. “It was a good group out here.”