There really was no reason for the Gastineau Channel Little League Junior Softball All Stars (ages 12-14) to hang their heads a few weeks ago.
Yes they lost the state championship series three games to one, and they didn’t have their best performance of the season, and they were in front of the hometown fans.
But the team they lost to, Anchorage’s Nunaka Valley Little League, is continuing a march to a possible historic finish.
After leaving Alaska, the Valley girls dominated the West Regional at Marana, Arizona, with an undefeated championship run of 4-0, while outscoring opponents 44-8.
They are now are in the World Series for the second straight year. Last season they finished fifth out of 10 teams, this season they are in the mix of nine clubs from around the world.
Nunaka Valley won their second straight game at the Junior Softball World Series in Kirkland, Washington on Tuesday, beating East Region champion West Haven Little League, from Connecticut, 8-5.
NV put three runs across the plate in the first inning as Taria Page doubled, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on Morgan Hill’s single. Felila Manu reached base, Nanea Tali walked and Jacynne Augafa walked to score Hill. Manu scored on a passed ball.
West Haven tied the score in the second but Nunaka scored two more runs in their half as Hannah Peterson crossed on a Page triple and Page tagged up on a hit by Hill.
The two teams exchanged another run until Nunaka put two more across the plate in the six and West Haven could muster just one run in their final at bat. Nunaka scored their 8 runs on 7 hits with 2 errors. West Haven had 8 hits with 2 errors. Lauren Syrup got the win on the mound, throwing 60 pitches with 39 strikes and Peterson relieved with 41 pitches, 30 for strikes. Page led at the plate, going 4-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI.
Nunaka Valley opened World Series on Monday with a 3-1 win over Eagle Pass, Texas, the Southwest Region champs. Given an opening by an error, Nunaka Valley staged a seventh-inning rally and then stymied an attempt by Texas. With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh and two out, Nunaka Valley’s Leilani Blair reached on an infield error. Morgan Hill followed with an RBI double to left-center field and Felila Manu plated Hill with an RBI single up the middle for a 3-1 lead. Eagle Pass loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the inning. But when Monica Rodriguez’s drove the ball to right field on one hop to load the bases, Nunaka right fielder Lauren Syrup winged the ball to first baseman Hill in an attempt to get a force out at first. Hill grabbed the throw, then noticed Eagle Pass’ Miryam Salinas wandering past second base. Hill ran across the infield toward Salinas and eventually threw to shortstop Taria Page, who tagged Salinas to end the game.
“That was pure Nunaka Valley - that’s what we do,’’ Nunaka Valley manager Richard Hill said. “We tell ‘em, ‘Throw the ball.’ We live by the sword and die by the sword. We want to induce them off the bases and get them hung up.’’
Syrup started on the mound and threw four innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run, and striking out 2. Peterson earned the win with three innings of scoreless relief and 2 strikeouts. Nunaka ended the game on a good defensive play and turned two double plays earlier. After Eagle Pass (0-2) scored a first-inning run, Nunaka Valley (1-0) tied the game in the top of the third when Blair’s single scored Peterson, who had been hit by a pitch and taken second base on a passed ball. Nunaka Valley plays today (9 a.m.) against the EMEA region champs, Prague Little League, Czech Republic, and Thursday (5:45 a.m.) against Latin American champ, ASOFEM Little League from Maunabo, Puerto Rico.
The top two teams from each five-team pool advance to the semifinals on Friday and the final is played on ESPN2 on Saturday at 1 p.m.