Get out your sunscreen and pack for warmer weather, the Gastineau girls are heading to Tucson.
Erica Maiquis pitched a four-hitter over five innings and Makayla Harp hit three teammates across the plate as Juneau’s Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars blanked Anchorage’s Abbott-O-Rabbit 10-1 to win the Junior Softball Alaska State Championship on Friday at Nunaka Valley.
“It is nice to close it out and earn a trip to Arizona,” Juneau manager Jun Maiquis said. “You practice hard and there will be a reward in the end. We had a shaky start. We were a little over confident and had some mental errors. The girls made my job hard last night, as compared to the night before, but we were hitting the ball well.”
Juneau swept the series, winning the first two games by scores of 8-2 on Wednesday and 16-5 on Thursday. The momentum carried over into Friday’s victory.
“I was really excited but at the same time trying to keep my head level,” pitcher Erica Maiquis said of her championship performance in the circle. “We had the rest of the game to go so I tried to stay calm.”
A five-run sixth inning clinched the game for Juneau.
“The girls finally got in tune and realized that it was time to close the door,” Jun Maiquis said. “I give credit to AOR, they were battling with us. AOR is a classy team and they played well. They got some good hits but our defense stepped it up.”
Jordan Harris (2-5) singled to center field, Erica Maiquis (2-4, 2 runs scored, 1 BB) reached on an error, Quincy Bates (2-3, 2 RS, 2 BB) walked to load the bags and Harp drove a single to left scoring Maiquis. Sami Good (1-3, 2 RS, 1 BB) reached on an error scoring Bates and Sophia Hultberg (1-4, 2 RBI, 2 RS) reached on an error that scored Harp. Maddie Johnson (3-3, 2 RBI) singled to score Good and Hultberg got home on the ensuing action. Alondra Echiverri (2-3, 1 RBI, 1 RS) and Haleigh DiCarlo (0-2) missed connections to end the run.
“I feel like we came together as a team,” Jordan Harris said. “Our defense was pretty solid.”
AOR made a two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth, getting one-run and having two runners on base before relief pitcher Bates got the last batter to ground back to the mound.
“We are definitely excited,” Quincy Bates said. “We started the game kind of iffy but once our bats came alive we felt pretty confident.”
Bates wasted little time in AOR’s last at bat in the seventh, getting a ground ball out to Maiquis at shortstop, striking out the next hitter, and giving Echiverri the last out honors with a ground ball at third.
Maiquis threw five innings (54 pitches, 43 strikes, 2 K, 1 BB, 4 H) and Bates two (23-16, 1 K, 1 R, 3 H) to complete the third-game-series sweep.
For Juneau’s Hultberg the win is a bit sweeter.
“I played for them about four years ago,” Sophia Hultberg said. “It was a special win. It was cool. I am not on their team anymore but it was fun to see them all again.”
Juneau scoring included one run in the second inning as Good walked but was forced at second when Hultberg reached on a fielder’s choice. Johnson and Echiverri
singled, and Amanda Bicknell (0-1, 1 RBI) reached on a fielder’s choice scoring Hultberg.
Juneau added two runs in the third as Bates doubled and Harp singled her home. Good singled and Harp was out advancing to second base. Hultberg singled to center to score Good.
Echiverri led off the fourth inning with a home run. After an Erika Holst (0-1) at bat, Harris singled, Maiquis walked and Bates singled to load the bases. Harp singled to left field scoring Maiquis. Taylor Beardslee (0-1) also had an appearance in the game.
Next stop is the Junior League Softball Western Regional Tournament in Tucson, Arizona, August 1-8. Their first opponent is Nevada on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Junior League World Series is in Kirkland, Washington, August 11-17.
“We are really excited to head to Arizona,” Bates added. “For sure we will need sunscreen for that weather down there.”
Added Erica Maiquis, “All I want at Arizona is for us to play to the best of our ability and I hope we go far.”
Juneau has already faced national competition this year in Colorado’s Sparkler Tournament that featured top teams from around the nation. Two years ago many of these same girls made the Western Regionals in the Majors Division and advanced to the semifinals at San Bernardino, California.
“We will just practice our game and stay with our game plan,” Jun Maiquis said. “All of these girls on the All-Star team are from the Midnight Suns program so they have traveled and played some very good teams. There will be no surprises. We’ll be ready to compete against the best teams in the West.”