It was nitty-gritty time for the Juneau West All-Stars.
Tied entering the top of the sixth inning, the Juneau West players were facing their final chance to beat Wrangell in round-robin pool play in the Southeast Alaska District 2 Major Division (age 11-12) Little League Baseball Tournament at Miller Field No. 1.
With one out, Juneau West center fielder Jamie Daniel dropped down a bunt and reached third base when Wrangell pitcher Eric Crayne's throw to first went into right field. Daniel then beat the throw home on a grounder to second by Jake Monagle, and the rally was on. Juneau West scored five more runs in the inning, then shut down Wrangell in the bottom of the sixth inning to claim a 9-3 victory.
"We needed to get some runs if we wanted to win," said Daniel, who hit a three-run homer in the first inning.
"If we don't get some runs, we're (beaten)," Juneau West pitcher Aaron Cohen said. "If we go into extra innings it upsets the chemistry of the whole game."
Sunday's other games went to the bottom of the sixth inning for the winning runs as Petersburg edged Prince of Wales 5-4 and Juneau East blanking Sitka 1-0. Ketchikan had a bye on Sunday.
Juneau West, the only one of the tournament's seven teams to have a bye in Saturday's opening day, jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning as Logan Miller reached on a one-out error, Cohen doubled and then Daniel hit a long home run to right centerfield off Crayne.
"It was my third one and my first with the All-Stars," Daniel said. "I wasn't nervous."
"It was a curve ball that didn't curve," Crayne said.
Wrangell answered with three runs in the bottom of the second innings, as Cohen hit two batters, walked two others and gave up two singles, including a two-run single by Patrick Howell.
Cohen also threw a wild pitch in the inning and almost had two more runs score on wild pitches except catcher Garret Cheeseman was able to track down the loose ball and get it back to Cohen for a pair of outs. On one of the plays, Cohen was able to tag out Crayne. But Crayne's slide caught Cohen in the knee and left him writhing on the ground for a couple of minutes before Cohen decided he was OK enough to return to the game.
"I have Osgood-Schlatter (a type of growing pain that affects the knees of young athletes) and it left a bruise," Cohen said. "I lost my focus a little. Except for that one inning, I struggled a little. I struggled a lot."
Both pitchers settled down after their respective three-run innings, and the score remained 3-3 entering the top of the sixth inning. But two big errors, a hit batter, two walks, two wild pitches, a fielder's choice and a two-run single by Dominic Holloway gave Juneau West six runs.
"Yeah, I thought we had a pretty good chance when they only had four runs," Crayne said.
Two runs were in and the bases were loaded when Holloway, who'd struck out three times in the game, stepped to the plate. Holloway singled to center field and took second on the throw home, then catcher Joel Cramer's throw to third went into left field as Eric Fagerstrom and Holloway came around to score the third and fourth runs on the same basic play.
"When I came up, I took off the batting gloves that have never helped me all season," Holloway said. "We knew Aaron could hold them after that."
"We were two throws from winning it," Wrangell manager Randy Hojem said.
Juneau West plays Juneau East at 6 p.m. tonight when round-robin pool-play continues. In today's other games, Prince of Wales plays Sitka at noon and Ketchikan takes on Petersburg at 3 p.m. while Wrangell has a bye.
Round-robin pool-play continues through Friday night, with the semifinals set for noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday. The semifinal winners will play for the championship at noon on July 18, with the tournament champ earning a trip to Anchorage the next weekend for the state tourney.
Petersburg 5, Prince of Wales 4
Austin Strickland scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning to lead Petersburg over Prince of Wales.
Chris Haerling homered for Petersburg earlier in the game.
Juneau East 1, Sitka 0
Dylan Baker ended a pitchers' duel when he scored the game's only run on Brendan Daugherty's two-out bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Baker pitched a complete game for Juneau East, while Ryan Reynolds went five-plus innings for Sitka before giving up a no-out walk to Baker. Michael Svenson relieved Reynolds and got two outs before Baker came around to score.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.