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Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League Senior (age 15-16) All-Stars bought an insurance policy when they scored three runs in the final inning of Friday night's District 2-Southeast tournament game against Ketchikan.
But Juneau didn't expect to cash the policy in as the GCLL All-Stars had to hold off a late rally to claim an 8-6 victory at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Juneau gave up two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and the game-tying run was at the plate when Ketchikan's Kyle Howe grounded out to Juneau pitcher Matt Greely to end the game.
The victory gave Juneau a sweep of the best-of-three series (Juneau won 8-1 on Thursday) and earned the GCLL All-Stars a berth in the state tournament July 19-23 in Juneau.
"If we didn't score those runs in the seventh, they'd have won," Juneau outfielder Wil Ridgeway said.
"They played a lot better today," Juneau shortstop-catcher Mike Foster said.
Juneau, which batted first even though it hosted the tournament, stranded two runners in the top of the first inning, then watched Ketchikan take a 3-0 lead in the bottom half of the first. Ketchikan loaded the bases with two outs on a single, a catcher's interference call and a hit batter, then Howe drew a bases-loaded walk to score Anders Farstad and Tim Eide hit a two-run single to score Caleb Mickel and Jeret Erickson.
Ridgeway led off the top of the second inning with a solo home run to left and Juneau second baseman C.J. Keys tied the score with a two-out, two-run homer to center that bounced off the flag pole to make it 3-3.
"It was a fastball right at the letters and I just drove it," said Ridgeway, who added that it was his first homer on Juneau's big field. "I thought I'd hit the fence, so I was running the whole way."
"Mine was a fastball, low, and I just golfed it," Keys said.
Ketchikan regained the lead in the bottom of the second as Bob Boyd walked, took second on a single, went to third on a fielder's choice, then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-3. Juneau had runners reach base in both the third and fourth innings, but baserunning errors took them off the basepaths and Ketchikan held the lead until the fifth.
"They came to play," Keys said. "If it wasn't for those runs at the end, we'd have to play again tomorrow (Saturday) and that game could go either way. What's big about this was there were no real individual plays or players who stood out. It was a team win."
In the fifth inning, Juneau took its first lead of the game as the GCLL All-Stars strung together two singles, a walk and two more singles for runs by Jordan Davis and Foster on RBIs from Erik Scholl and Ridgeway. Juneau had the bases loaded, but Ketchikan turned a 1-2-3 double play to end Juneau's rally with Juneau leading 5-4.
"They tested us a lot more in this game, and we needed that," said Juneau pitcher Matt Greely, who gave up eight hits and struck out nine in a complete-game performance. "Once we got the lead, I went to the bullpen to regroup and warm up. I wasn't getting my pitches over earlier in the game and I think going to the bullpen helped."
Greely seemed to settle down after Juneau took the lead, getting a double-play ball to end the fifth inning and striking out the side in the sixth.
In the seventh inning, Juneau scored three insurance runs as Foster reached second on a two-base throwing error, Scholl drew a two-out walk, then Ridgeway, Sergio Magallanes and Eric Neal hit three straight RBI bloop singles to make it 8-4.
"I was just trying to get things going with runners in scoring position," said Ridgeway, who finished the game with a solo homer, three RBIs and two runs scored. "We kept battling and just played good team ball."
In the bottom of the seventh, Boyd singled, took third on a single by Mickel and scored on a throwing error to end the play that allowed Mickel to go to second. Mickel later scored on a two-out single by Erickson, but Greely got Howe to hit a comebacker to end the game.
"We always felt like we were in it," said Mickel, who joined Boyd with two runs each to lead Ketchikan. "I felt like we had better pitching today, and Richard Leary and Jeret Erickson were hitting their spots a lot better than I did yesterday. We also had better defense. When Jeret got in, they didn't hit him real hard. They just hit a bunch of Texas Leaguers that fell in."
Juneau will host the state Senior Little League tournament July 19-23 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, with Juneau opening the tournament at 6 p.m. against the winner of the District 3 (Interior Alaska) championship game on Thursday.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUNEAU-GCLL 8, KETCHIKAN 6
Friday's game at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
JUNEAU-GCLL 030 020 3 -- 8 11 2
KETCHIKAN 310 000 2 -- 6 8 2
Greely and A. Larson, Foster (4); Leary, Erickson (5) and Howe. WP -- Greely. LP -- Erickson. Sv -- None. 2B -- Juneau: Davis; Ketchikan: None. 3B -- None. HR -- Juneau: Ridgeway, Keys; Ketchikan: None.