Gastineau Channel Little League couldn’t slow down high-powered Abbott-O-Rabbit Little League (Anchorage) in the Alaska Little League Junior Softball State Tournament in Ketchikan.
The Juneau all-stars lost a best-of-five series to the Anchorage club, 3-0, with their final loss coming Monday afternoon in a 12-0 shutout. It was the only game in which Juneau was shut out in the state tournament, which included a home run by Sydney Strong in Game 1 on Saturday and a near-flawless defensive game in Game 2 on Sunday.
The series began just one day after GCLL finished off Ketchikan Little League in the district tournament, another best-of-five series.
After scoring 11 and nine runs, respectively, in its two previous games, Juneau lost to AOR 11-4 in the state opener. AOR’s pitching was faster than what the team was used to seeing, shortstop Anna Dale said.
“We’ve also played against Ketchikan before (the district tournament) so I think we knew what to expect,” Dale added. “But when we were playing against AOR, I don’t think we really knew what to expect.”
With a renewed focus on defense, Juneau gave its opponent all it could handle in Game 2, coming up just short in a 3-2 loss.
“I think in the entire game we had one error,” Juneau manager Barb Strong said. “So that’s how we shut them down.”
Gloria Bixby, who pitched three innings, went 2-for-4 at the plate and gave Juneau a 1-0 lead in the first inning. A Peyton Carson RBI double grew to the lead to 2-0 in the second inning.
Bixby came on in relief in the second with two runners on base and a newly-tied game. With the bases loaded and one out, Bixby struck out one batter and got opposing pitcher Sabrina Jolin to ground out to Rileyanna Payne at third.
“I feel our whole team did good at keeping our energy up that game and that’s why we got such a good score for (the game),” Bixby said. “It was challenging to hold all the runs from coming in but our defense did really good at being tight.”
Bixby went on to strand two runners in the third and one in the fifth. In the fourth, Kendyl Decker came around to score the go-ahead run after leading off with a single to left field.
For her part, after giving up the two early runs, Jolin retired the side in order in the third, fifth and sixth innings. She also made back-to-back strikeouts in the seventh that kept both Mariah Schauwecker and Payne from scoring.
“That game was definitely a lot of fun because it was super close and we just needed one more run to tie it up,” Dale said. “But we couldn’t figure it out.”
All but one of the players remain eligible for junior all-stars next season. In addition, over half of the team will be entering high school, giving them the opportunity to gain some extra experience with one of the high school programs.
Abbott-O-Rabbit now advances to the West Region tournament, which begins Friday in Tucson, Arizona.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.