A looping Juneau line drive that should have scored the go ahead runs instead fell into the hands of outstanding first baseman Morgan Hill from Nunaka Valley on Thursday night at Melvin Park.
"Elle Gray hits a shot a shot that we all felt was going to drop," Juneau manager John Boucher said. "It was just a great fielding play and we got doubled off the bag."
The Gastineau Channel Little League's junior all star softball team dropped a thriller to Nunaka Valley, 6-5, in the Alaska State Juniors All Star Softball Tournament at Melvin Park on Thursday night.
The loss puts Juneau at a disadvantage in the best-of-five game series as they trail two games to one against the visitors from Anchorage going into tonight's (Friday) 7 p.m. game.
"It is tough to lose but it was a fantastic game," Boucher said. "And this is a fantastic series."
Juneau had battled back from a 6-1 deficit to trail 6-5 heading into their last at bat. Meranda Frenzel singled to right field and advanced to second on a passed ball.
That was when Gray connected on a shot that, on any other night, would have found a space for multiple bases. Instead it was fielded and turned into a game ending double play.
Juneau trailed 6-1 heading into the top of the fifth. The lone Juneau point was the result of Quincy Bates putting a solo home run into the trees in the fourth inning.
Juneau's big rally came when Jordan Harris hit a one-out single to center, Erica Maiquis walked, and Makayla Harp singled scoring Harris.
Bates walked to load the bases and Maddie McKeown singled scoring Maiquis.
Gray rapped a double scoring Harp and Bates and Maddie Johnson drew four straight pitches to load the bases. A questionable tactic concerning player substitutions resulted in a half-hour delay as coaches tried to contact appropriate league officials and stalled the momentum and the final out went down swinging.
Nunaka Valley's starting pitcher Lauren Syrup struck out 11, walked one and surrendered six hits before being replaced in the seventh. The star pitcher has no innings left to use in tonight's contest.
Juneau can still go with Maiquis and Bates, who have been splitting the mound duties. Marquis threw the first three innings Thursday, striking out three, walking four, allowing five hits and six runs on five errors; Bates threw the next three innings, striking out one, walking one, allowing two hits and no runs in just 29 pitches. Marquis threw 59 pitches.
Gray went 1-4 at the plate with 2 RBI and 1 run scored; Bates 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 RS, 1 walk; Harp 3-4, 1 RBI 1 RS; McKeown 1-4, 1 RBI; Frenzel 2-3, 1 W; Harris 1-4, 1 RS; Maiquis 1-3, 1 RS, 1 W; Hultberg 0-1; Cunningham 0-0, 1 W; Hayward 0-2; Johnson 0-1, 1 W.
"I am just so proud of how we have played so far," Boucher said. "We have showed significant resolve, being down and coming back late. To me that shows we are a tough team."
Tonight's game begins at 7 p.m. at Melvin Park. Juneau pitchers will again try to hold East High School standout Taira Page to a hitless night. Page led East with hits during last season's high school schedule. East teammates Leilani Blair and Sierra Rosenzweig also show a lot of polish. The fielding is solid with Hill at first and left fielder Nanea Tali balancing out a fundamentally sound roster.