Alaska’s Juneau Gastineau Channel Little League Junior All Stars out hit Utah’s Cedar National Little League All Stars 16 to 12 and outscored their opponents 12 to eight in the last four innings of play in the 2012 Junior League Western Regional Baseball Tournament at Vancouver, Washington on Thursday.
It was the first three innings that were unkind to the Alaskans.
“The kids were a little over confidant coming in,” Manager Joe Tompkins said. “When the other team started putting runs up, our boys had a bit of a shocker.”
Utah jumped out to a 6-0 first inning lead, feeding off three errors.
“We let things snowball on us in the first inning,” pitching coach Matt Greely said. “That kind of set the tone early on in the game. Our starter Tim Christensen threw fine. They got a lot of contact but we just weren’t able to make routine plays and that cost us.”
Utah led 9-0 heading into the top of the fourth and Juneau found their offense.
Jake Tanner was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on Grant Ainsworth’s double to left field. Tanner would score on a wild pitch and Ainsworth rested briefly on third until Jared Markovich singled him home. Matt Cunningham then singled pinch runner Mo Bullock to second and Tim Christensen loaded the bases with another single.
Brendan Pietz hit an RBI ground out to score Bullock and Cunningham scored on a play on the bases to cut Utah’s lead 9-4. Utah would get two of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth.
“It wasn’t for a lack of effort,” Greely said. “Our boys battled hard the whole game. They had a chance to fold the tent a couple times and make it a five inning game but our boys hung in there and gave us a chance.”
Juneau found more hitting skills in the fifth. Tanner patiently drew a walk, Ainsworth singled and Markovich singled to load the bases. Cunningham hit an RBI scoring Tanner and Ainsworth scored on a base throw. Christensen singled and Cunningham scored on another base play.
Pietz singled and Collins singled to right to load the bases. Christensen would score as Pietz stole second and Juneau was back within three at 11-8.
Utah again countered with six runs in the bottom of the fifth to lead 17-8.
Juneau put up another four-run inning in the sixth as Alex Muir singled to right and pinch runner Devon Williams advanced to third on a Tanner single to center.
Ainsworth singled scoring Williams. Tanner scored on a steal throw against Ainsworth heading to second base. Cunningham moved Ainsworth to third on a single. Ainsworth would go on to score.
Christensen walked and Pietz singled to load the bases. Cunningham would score on a Bullock sacrifice fly for Juneau’s 12th and final point.
“We turned it around on offense definitely,” Tompkins said. “Offensively we are pretty sound and working hard for it. And then we would get back on defense and play timid, and I haven’t seen them play like that before.”
Juneau’s pitchers walked eight and struck out two. Christensen threw 50 pitches with 34 strikes, Pietz was 30-13, Cunningham 16-8, Ainsworth 13-6 and Bullock 35-20.
Ainsworth continued his hot plate stance going 3-4 with 3 runs scored, 1 run batted in, and 1 walk. Cunningham was 3-3 (3 RBI, 3 RS, 1 stolen base), Christensen 2-3 (1 RBI, 1 RS, 1 WK), Pietz 2-4 (2 RBI), Bullock 0-1 (1 RBI, 1 RS), Finn Collins 1-1 (1 RBI), Tanner 1-2 (3 RS, 2 WK), Markovich 2-5 (1 RBI), Williams 0-2 (1 RS), Muir 1-4, Tompkins 1-2.
Utah pitchers Jackson (53 pitches 30 strikes), Millett (33-21), Carrizosa (18-12), Hulet (20-12) and Johnson (16-9) controlled the mound.
“I think everyone knows that they tried,” Greely said. “This is a team that has high expectations for itself. We definitely feel that we have better baseball ahead of us. I don’t think they are satisfied with their effort.”
Ainsworth got the win in Wednesday’s 8-7 tournament opener against Arizona, as he entered that game in the sixth inning with a runner on base.
“They were a tough group of players,” Greely said of Arizona. “We just kept tacking on runs and did good situational hitting. We were emotionally spent after that game and that was our challenge coming into today, to match that intensity.”
That win was the first for Alaska over Arizona.
“This is a different venue than these guys have ever played in,” Greely said. “It is like the college world series for this age group. We are confidant group but we didn’t really know where we stood.”
Against Arizona Alex Muir hit the game-tying single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning scoring Mo Bullock and Grant Ainsworth hit the winning run.
Tanner was 1-4 (1 RS, 1 WK), Ainsworth 2-4 (2 RBI), Markovich 1-3 (1 RS, 1 WK), Cunningham 2-3 (1 RS, 1 RBI, 1 WK), Christensen 1-4 (1 RS, 1 RBI), Pietz 1-3 (1 RS, 1 RBI, 1 WK), Tompkins 0-2 (1 RBI), Bullock 1-2 (1 RS), Williams 0-2 (1 RS), Muir 1-3 (1 RBI, 1 WK), and Collins 0-1. Christensen and Pietz had two stolen bases; Cunningham and Williams one apiece.
Juneau will now have a day off and play again on Saturday against Hawaii.
“At this point we are really just focused on ourselves,” Greely said. “We still control our own destiny if we can take care of business the next few games.”
Game scores to date are: SO. CAL 15 Vancouver 5; WASH 14 UT 4; OR 14 NV. 4; ID 3 MT 1; Hawaii 5 NO. CAL 4; AK 8 AZ 7; SO. CAL 14 MT 0; NO. CAL 5 AZ 4; UT 17 AK 12.
“After a good talk our team got their heads right,” Tompkins said. “It was good communication. It is definitely not over. These guys believe in themselves. We just need to play the same way we played against Arizona, be aggressive and don’t worry about making mistakes. We would rather you try with an aggressive error. It is not like our boys, we play aggressive. With an All Star record of 9-1 we pretty much know how to come back.”