Fueled by burritos and doughnuts, the East T-birds are back on top of the Anchorage high school softball world after back-to-back victories over their nemesis this weekend.
East and South both entered the weekend undefeated, but only East remains undefeated.
The T-birds knocked off South 8-0 Friday night and 15-0 Saturday morning to gain sole possession of first place in the Cook Inlet Conference.
East pitcher Daisy Page was the star of both games – she struck out a combined 14 batters and limited South to one hit in each game.
It was a big weekend for East, which had a score to settle with the Wolverines. Until this weekend, the T-Birds hadn't faced South since last year's state championship game, which ended with a 16-12 victory and a second straight state title for the Wolverines.
South claimed its first state title in 2016 by edging East 7-4, a win that ended East's unprecedented run of four straight championships.
The T-birds are eager to reclaim the state title from the Wolverines, and so even though they blanked South on Friday night, they were still fired up when they reported to the Chuck Albrecht Softball Complex a little more than 12 hours later.
"We have no trouble getting up for South," East coach Richard Knowles said.
The burritos and doughnuts might have helped. Knowles said the team dined on burritos during Saturday morning batting practice at East High, and then gobbled down doughnuts at the ballpark.
If there was a letdown for East, it came later on Saturday, when it played Dimond in an afternoon game — the T-birds' third game in less than 24 hours.
Dimond used home runs from Hailey Shangin, Racquel Micheletto and Maddie Moser to grab an 8-4 lead after three innings, but East rallied to eke out a 9-8 victory. The T-birds, who ran their record to 12-0, got four runs back in the fourth inning, in which Page belted a two-run homer.
"Dimond snuck up on us," Knowles said. "We won't look past them again."
Page, a senior, is headed to Mississippi Valley State next fall to play softball for the Division I Devils, Knowles said. In Saturday's game against South, her pitches consistently clocked at 61 mph, Wolverines coach Joe White said.
Page's older sister, Taria Page, is a junior who plays first base and swings a potent bat at Division I Louisiana Tech. There's a good chance the sisters will meet in a nonconference game next season, Knowles said.
Softball has taken a number of Alaskans to college, including a few who made it to the Division I ranks. Among them are Lauren Frost of Eagle River, a regular contributor on the Stanford team this season.
Taria Page has more than 100 career RBIs for Lousiana Tech and is the second slugger Alaska has sent to Ruston, Louisiana. Pauline Tufi, a West High grad, last year wrapped up a stellar four-year career at La Tech, where she ranks second all-time in RBIs (154) and home runs (35).
Cindy Bristow, who for seven years was the national director of Junior Olympic softball for the Amateur Softball Association, is in Anchorage this week to put on a coaching clinic, and she spent Saturday morning watching high school games at the Albrecht fields.
She said Anchorage players make the most of their short high school season, which lasts less than two months. In Florida, where Bristow is from, teams play from late January to late May.
"I'm surprised based on how short the season is that the skill level is so high," said Bristow, a Hall of Fame college coach and the founder of Softball Exellence, an instructional organization in Florida.
"It's like watching a game anywhere else. It's just colder," she said.
Both of East's Saturday victims bounced back to claim afternoon wins. Dimond improved to 6-4 by beating Eagle River 11-5 – Shangin smacked another home run, her fifth of the season – and South trounced Service 16-2.
The Wolverines are 10-2 overall, an impressive record given the total team makeover this season. South lost nine seniors from last season's state championship team – "My whole starting lineup," White said – and this year's team has eight freshmen.
White is thrilled with how the young team is performing.
"We just can't seem to hit off Daisy Page," he said. "These girls haven't seen 60-mph pitching before."
They're likely to see more of Page's sizzling pitches before the season ends.
East and South are among 16 teams entered in next weekend's Blue & Gold tournament at the Albrecht fields. And the way things stand now, the T-Birds and Wolverines will be among the top seeds at the CIC tournament May 21-26 and the state tournament in Fairbanks beginning May 31.