The Gastineau Channel Little League Juniors Softball All-Star team will host Sitka in a best-of-five district championship series beginning 3 p.m. July 13 on the Melvin Park diamond while the Majors host Anchorage’s Nunaka Valley at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
“I think this year we are a lot more balanced than we have been in the past,” Juneau Juniors manager Scott Balovich said. “Sitka will have some players with high school varsity experience as well, so we are not taking them lightly.”
The GCLL Juniors All-Stars are third baseman Abigail Schmidt (5), right fielder/pitcher Allison Ireland-Haight (8), third baseman Alondra Echiverri (22), left fielder Haleigh DiCarlo (2), pitcher Leah Spargo (4), right fielder/second baseman Mia Loree (30), second baseman Maxie Saceda Hurt (7), center fielder Megan Dallas (17), catcher Morgan Balovich (12), first baseman Peyton Harp (16), right fielder Rachel Macaulay (21), shortstop Sami Good (3), and right fielder Skylar Hickok (15). Aiding Balovich are coaches Brian Dallas and Dave Spargo.
Juneau suffered an early hit when pitcher Maranda Markovich was injured.
“We will have to have other kids step in and do that,” Balovich said. “Allison Ireland-Haight has a lot of high school varsity pitching experience and she can fill that void for us. We will miss Maranda but we should be okay. Leah (Spargo) is one of the best pitchers in the state for her age group and will be starting in the circle. If our pitchers can keep the ball down, pitch to contact and throw strikes, we have a very strong defense to back them up. If our girls hit like I think they can hit, we can compete with anybody even on the national level.”
Balovich also can pitch Saceda Hurt, Dallas, Harp, and Schmidt.
“We have a stable of accomplished pitchers,” Balovich said. “We have a top three but we can bring in some guns, even for one inning, and slam the door. I think it is three starting pitchers and bullpen by committee.”
The core of this Juniors team is the Majors Divison All-Stars team that lost three tough games to Anchorage’s City View two seasons ago in Juneau, costing them the state title and a trip to San Bernardino, Calif. for Western Regional play.
Last year, many of these Juniors were part of the Major All-Stars team that won the state title over City View in three straight games at Anchorage and advanced to the Western Regional in California. They included Macaulay, Harp, Spargo, Dallas, Seceda-Hurt, Hickok, Balovich, Markovich and Loree.
Last year’s Junior All-Stars won state and advanced to Arizona for the regional tournament and were two wins away from advancing to the World Series in Kirkland, Wash. Good and Echiverri were on that roster.
“I have no reservations of seeing this team in the same situation,” Balovich said. “We have high hopes. More than anything, this team has hitters all the way up and down the line. Even the kids that will not be in the starting lineup are tremendous hitters. If we have one real strength, it is that we will come at you offensively.”
The winner of the district tournament will also play in Juneau for the state championship against the winner from Anchorage. That best-of-five series begins July 21. All games will be at Melvin Park Field.
Juneau’s Major Division Softball All-Stars begin a best-of-five state championship series against Anchorage’s Nunaka Valley beginning at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Melvin Park. The winner advances to the regional tournament in San Bernardino, July 18-25.
The Majors will have a strength Anchorage isn’t ready for, according to manager Kevin Poole.
“Our love of the rain I think,” Poole said. “That is going to get us through. We have an energetic group that is ready to play. We have a little bit of everything; good pitching, good hitting and good fielding. I think we will be just fine.”
The Major Softball All-Stars are Emily Bowman (31), Kendyl Carson (11), Winter Clancy (9), Ariana Connally (15), Morgan Poole (13), Ciara Fetter (26), Sarah “Kyra” Jenkins Hayes (1), Asianna Mazon (10), Riley Stadt (6) and Mariah Tuvaifale (14). Aiding Poole are coaches Jim Carson and Katherine Andrews.