The Gastineau Channel Little League Junior All-Stars claimed the Southeast Alaska Regional baseball title on Thursday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park by defeating a resilient Sitka team by the score of 10-3.
Sitka won the first game of the playoff series with Juneau after Juneau won two previous games earlier in the week.
“Sitka came out with a lot of heart, and battled, and never gave up even after being down 9 to 1,” said Coach Jeremy Ludeman after the game.
The All-Stars from Juneau started the game on the scoreboard as the visiting team and put up three runs in the top of the inning on hits by Christian Ludeman, Olin Rawson, and Austin McCurley. Juneau starting pitcher Bryson Echiverri delivered the all-important shutdown inning when Sitka batted in the bottom of the first inning.
In the top of the second inning, Juneau scored four more runs on hits by Brock McCormick, Ludeman, Rawson and McCurley. McCurley would come on to pitch a scoreless second for Juneau who the added two more runs in the third to move the score to 9-to-0. Isiah Nelson and Brian Echiverri got hits in the third inning.
Sitka countered with two runs in the bottom of the third and actually outscored the Juneau team the rest of the game. A last inning rally with two runners on with nobody out kindled hopes of another Sitka come from behind win. But it was not to be. Juneau hurler Brock McCormick struck out the next three Sitka batters using an impressive mixture of speeds and control on his pitches. McCormick got the win for Juneau and recorded six strikeouts along the way. A peculiar fact was that Sitka batters were hit by a pitch six times by Juneau pitchers.
Next up for the Juneau Junior All-Stars is a series with a strong Abbott-O-Rabbit Little League team from Anchorage. Games begin in Juneau at Adair-Kennedy on Friday. According to head coach Ludeman, the team from Anchorage will consist of All-Star players from three leagues.
If the team from Juneau learned one thing from this week’s tournament, it is that wins are earned and not granted on expectations. The boys from Sitka and Ketchikan will back next year.
• Larry Johansen is a freelance journalist based in Juneau.