Juneau pitcher Leah Spargo put in a complete game performance to silence the Nunaka Valley Little League bats and keep Juneau alive in the Juniors All-Stars Softball State Tournament on Thursday at Melvin Park Field.
Spargo’s four-hit, three-strikeout effort on the mound, plus her teammates’ backup defense on the field pushed Juneau to a 12-2 win in Game Three of the best-of-five championship series.
“I was thinking that this is the last game,” Spargo said. “That if we lose then they win and they get to go to Arizona and I, personally, did not want that for the team. I tried my hardest and everybody else did too and we pulled it off.”
Spargo went six innings, throwing 108 pitches with 52 total balls, allowing just four hits and two runs, walking eight batters and striking out three.
“I think they started to realize that they needed to really watch what I was throwing,” Spargo said. “I was throwing different pitches and they didn’t figure it out quick enough I guess. I took my time a little bit more. I focused more on Morgan, my catcher, instead of the crowd. A lot of times I just look up at the crowd. I focused more on the game than anything else.”
Nunaka scored the first run of the game as Tala Lauvale was walked, Daisy Page singled to left field, Rebecca Syrup singled and Lauvale was ousted at third base and Julia Tosi reached on an error scoring Page.
The 1-0 score would hold until the bottom of the third inning when Juneau’s bats came to life and Spargo helped her own cause with a bat.
Haleigh DiCarlo earned a lead off walk from Page, Rachel Macaulay reached on an error at first base, Maxie Saceda Hurt earned a walk, Sami Good singled to center field scoring DiCarlo and Macaulay, Alondra Echiverri doubled to left field scoring Good and Saceda Hurt, Megan Dallas earned a walk, Balovich walked and Spargo tripled to right field scoring Dallas and Balovich for a 7-1 lead.
“That felt good,” Spargo said. “It is the most amazing feeling, just to know you finally got that hit, it was awesome.”
Nunaka got one run back in the top of the sixth inning as Eva Damrill earned a walk, Spargo struck out Kellie Stewart, Amanda Boeckman walked, Olivia Webster walked, Spargo got the second out to pop to DiCarlo in left field, and Page earned a walk for a 7-2 game with the bases loaded.
Spargo then forced opposing pitcher Syrup to ground out to Saceda Hurt at second base to stop the rally.
“We just didn’t have the vibe tonight,” Nunaka Valley’s Page said. “We feel good now though. We are ready to go for the next game.”
Juneau put five more runs across in the bottom of the sixth as Good led off with a walk, Echiverri walked, Dallas walked to load the bases and Balovich singled to right field scoring Good and Echiverri.
Peyton Harp followed with a walk to load the bags again and Spargo walked to score Dallas. DiCarlo singled to score Balovich and Harp for a 12-2 game ending hit by the 10-run rule.
Spargo went 1-2 at the plate with three runs batted in and one walk, Good was 1-3 (2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K), Echiverri 2-3 (2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB), Balovich 2-2 (2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB), DiCarlo 1-2 (1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB), Macauley 0-4 (1 R), Saceda Hurt 0-1 (1 R, 2 BB, 1 K), Dallas 0-2 (2 R, 2 BB, 1 K), Ireland-Haight 0-2 (2 K), Harp 0-1 (1 R, 1 BB, 1 K), Abby Schmidt 0-1 (1 K), and Skylar Hicock 0-0 (1 K).
“These girls had their backs against the wall and they came out fighting,” Juneau manager Scott Balovich said. “There wasn’t one hint of give-up in those kids tonight. I felt pretty good about the way they were approaching the game. They knew they had nothing to lose; it was win or stay home. The bats woke up and Leah was magnificent in the circle. That girl has had one gritty performance after another and we have leaned on her really hard. Overall tonight we played our game. We hit the ball. We hit their number one, number two and number three pitchers. The kids realize now that they can hit and they can hit anybody. We cleaned up our mistakes and played some solid defense. It was just one game. Now we have to focus on winning another game. We are really happy that we got this one, we kept ourselves alive and didn’t get swept, but now the focus is on the next game. We are confidant. We know Nunaka is a very good team and we will stay where we are at mentally.”
Nunaka’s Syrup went 3-4 at the plate with three singles, Page was 1-1 (1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB), Damrill 0-1 (1 R, 2 BB), Julis Tosi 0-3 (1 RBI), Christa Rapoza 0-3 (1 K), Jaya Jackson 0-2, Stewart 0-1 (1 K), Beverly Larson 0-2 (1 K), Boeckman 0-0 (1 BB), Billy-Jean Koso 0-0, Kenzie Barnhart 0-1, and Webster 0-0 (1 BB).
Nunaka started with Page on the mound for 2.0 innings (56 P, 27 TB, 4 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 2 K), Syrup relieved for 3.0 innings (82 P, 43 TB, 2 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 5 K) and Kellie Stewart closed for 0.1 (18 P, 14 TB, 1 H, 3 R, 3 BB).
“We have to do better,” Nunaka Valley manager Jeff Boeckman said.
The two teams will play Game Four at 6 p.m. today, Friday, on Melvin Park Field.
“Our attitude before the game was if we could pull it off tonight than we can do just about anything,” Spargo said. “We can do two more games and end it and go play for the West Regions. Nunaka is a very strong team.”