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ANCHORAGE -- A collapse in the seventh inning against Service cost the Juneau-Douglas High School softball team a shot at defending its crown at the state softball championships Saturday at Cartee Fields.
Service pitcher Nancy Hibbert struck out 12 as she and Juneau's Andrea Walker battled to a 1-1 draw after six innings. The Cougars then erupted for seven runs off three Juneau errors in the seventh to win 8-1. Stunned by the loss, Juneau then fell to Dimond 7-0 in losers' bracket play for its earliest exit ever in the 5-year-old tournament.
``It was a lapse,'' center fielder Angie Kemp said of the fateful seventh. ``It's the same thing that Service always does; they collected on our errors.''
Service went on to defeat Chugiak 11-0 for its third state title in five years. The Cougars finished the season with a perfect 20-0 record.
But Juneau (17-6), which beat North Pole 8-4 in Friday's first round, had its chances to corral the Cougars. The Crimson Bears had two runners on with one out in the fourth and failed to score, and loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and again couldn't bring a runner home. Juneau stranded eight runners in all.
``We just didn't have the timely hitting,'' Crimson Bears co-coach Steve Massey said.
Juneau was also facing a tough, experienced pitcher in Hibbert, who struck out two batters each inning, walked three and scattered seven hits in the game. Service coach Ben Cuaresma said Hibbert's strategy was to pitch inside to try and jam Juneau's batters.
``They'll either hit it late or it'll prevent them from extending,'' Cuaresma said. ``That was our game plan. I've known most of those hitters since Little League, and they're all good hitters.''
The Crimson Bears were missing No. 1 pitcher Aubrey Alt for academic reasons, but got a lift on Friday when Nicole Adair made her first appearance since last year's state tourney when she took the mound in Friday's first-round victory over North Pole. Adair, who underwent shoulder surgery last fall and was instrumental in helping Juneau win its first state title a year ago, pitched the first two innings, allowing one run.
Freshman Stephanie Heard allowed three runs and five hits in three innings of work, while Walker pitched a scoreless sixth for the save. Suzanne Parr hit 3-for-4 with four RBIs and one run, and Natalie Capacci was 2-for-4 with one RBI. Kynde Baun also hit 2-for-4, scored two runs and knocked in two more.
Heard and fellow freshman Talley Israelson combined to give up 11 hits to Dimond, but it was hitting - or the lack of it - that ultimately cost Juneau. Lynx pitcher Raquel Ranger fanned nine batters and allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings.
``I definitely feel that in the Dimond game it was our hitting that killed us,'' said second baseman MaryAnn Moffet, one of four seniors on the team (with Kemp, Capacci and Darbee Anderson). ``We were mentally exhausted from the high-intensity game with Service.''
``I think we did a good job of letting it go,'' Anderson said. ``But we're such a close team that when something goes wrong it brings us all down. It's hard for us to get over things.''
The Service game was one Massey felt his team could have won.
``Service is still nothing to be afraid of, that seventh inning was a fluke'' Massey said. ``If we played in Region IV and we played them four times, I can tell you they wouldn't have gone undefeated.''
At least 10 players should return for Juneau next year, including pitchers Alt, Adair, Walker, Heard and Israelson, giving the Crimson Bears a strong nucleus for their bid to earn a return trip to the title game. Juneau reached the championship game in each of the last three years, losing to Chugiak in 1997 and Service in 1998 before winning it all last season.
CRIMSON BEARS 8 PATRIOTS 4
Friday at Cartee Fields
Juneau-Douglas050 300 - 8 11 4
North Pole100 030 - 4 8 5
Juneau - Adair, Heard (3), Walker (6) and S. Parr. North Pole - Szendrey and Cummings. W - Adair. L - Szendrey. 2B - Juneau: Baun. 3B - North Pole: Cox.
COUGARS 8 CRIMSON BEARS 1
Saturday at Cartee Fields
Service000 100 7 - 8 12 0
Juneau-Douglas100 000 0 - 1 7 4
Service - Hibbert and Reynolds. Juneau - Walker and S. Parr. W - Hibbert. L - Walker. 2B - Juneau: Moffet.
LYNX 7 CRIMSON BEARS 0
Saturday at Cartee Fields
Dimond100 123 - 7 11 1
Juneau-Douglas000 000 - 0 2 2
Dimond - Ranger and Thane. Juneau - Heard, Israelson (5) and S. Parr. W - Ranger. L - Heard.