Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League Junior All-Stars wouldn't let a little bit of rain -- OK, a lot of rain -- dampen their 10-5 championship game victory over Ketchikan Tuesday in the title game of the Alaska District 2 (Southeast) Junior (age 13-14) Little League Baseball Tournament at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The victory means Juneau heads to Anchorage today for this weekend's state tournament, which also features Eielson from Fairbanks and Abbott-O-Rabbit from Anchorage. Last year, Juneau's Junior All-Stars not only won the state tournament, but they went on to win the Pacific Northwest Regional tournament in Washington and came within one game at the Western District in New Mexico of advancing to the Junior Little League World Series in Michigan.
On Tuesday, Juneau held a 6-1 lead after the fourth inning when drizzle turned into a downpour and the game was halted for 1 1/2 hours. Finally the downpour stopped enough for a few parents to squeegee the water off the field so play could resume, despite a continued mist.
``That (the rain delay) got me hyper,'' said Juneau pitcher Jon Andrew Malacas, who threw a complete game for his second victory over Ketchikan in the tournament.
``It didn't affect us,'' added Juneau first baseman Erik Scholl, who scored two runs and had two RBIs. ``I think the ball was wet, so that slowed the ball down. But that was all.''
Malacas didn't pitch quite the same as last Thursday's tournament opener, when he no-hit Ketchikan in a 9-0 victory. Still, he was mowing down Ketchikan's order in the early going and was able complete the game despite tiring toward the end. Malacas only allowed four earned runs over his two games in the tournament.
``He's a tough kid,'' Juneau manager Larry Neal said of Malacas, who's only pitched twice this season. ``I probably left him in too long, and I'll watch him a bit closer when we get to state.''
Juneau supported Malacas by scoring 10 runs on offense and playing nearly error-free defense. Juneau's only error came right after the rain delay when a wet ball slipped out of a player's hand after he'd already fielded a single. Juneau also stole 10 bases.
Juneau did have to survive a late up-rising by Ketchikan, which made one final stand in the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Ketchikan scored two runs and forced Malacas to throw 37 pitches to get out of the inning, including 20 to just two hitters who combined to foul off 14 pitches.
Casey Bass hit a one-out triple and Erickson walked and stole second, then both scored on a single by Mike Swaim. Before his two-run single, Swaim kept fouling off pitches in a 10-pitch at bat, then Ryan Berry fouled off pitches in another 10-pitch at bat that ended with a pop-up to the catcher. Finally, Malacas got Brandon Eubanks to ground out to second to end the game.
``I was just trying to hit it,'' Swaim said. ``I kept fouling them off and finally got a nice hit. We weren't going to give up.''
``I was laughing at all the fouls,'' Malacas said. ``This feels pretty good. I wanted this (a complete game). My arm feels perfectly fine. We really wanted to get out of there.''
The Juneau players said they weren't expecting another no-hitter, especially against Ketchikan, which has consistently been one of the top teams in the district.
``I thought they'd hit more,'' Juneau shortstop Jordan Davis said after scoring two runs and adding an RBI. ``This was the second time they'd seen him (Malacas).''
``Ketchikan is a good team, and they can come back on you,'' Juneau centerfielder Sergio Magallanes said after driving home two runs. ``Last year, when we went to state, it seemed easy after what we saw in Southeast. I don't want to give us bad ju-ju, but the teams are tougher down here.''
As it had in each of its three previous games in the tournament, Juneau took the lead in the first inning and never trailed.
Juneau scored twice in the first inning when Davis singled and took second on an error in center, went to third on a passed ball and scored on a grounder by Magallanes. Then C.J. Keys was hit by a pitch, stole second, went to third on an error and scored on a grounder by Chance Millay.
Juneau made it 4-0 in the second as Eric Neal walked, stole second and went to third on an error, then scored on a single by Scholl, who stole second and scored on a two-out single by Magallanes.
Ketchikan finally got a run off Magallanes in the bottom of the second inning when Tyler Richardson doubled, went to second on a single by Berry and scored on a single by Kyle Howe.
Juneau added two more runs in the fourth inning as Brian Vinson singled, stole second and scored on a double by Davis, who took third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-1.
The rains came in the bottom of the fourth and, after some huge puddles were cleared off the field during the delay, Juneau scored another run in the top of the fifth. Malacas doubled, took third on a passed ball and scored on a pinchhit single by Zach Mixson to make it 7-1.
But Ketchikan answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 7-3. Ben Voetberg singled, Jake Ostrom walked and both moved up a base on a grounder. Jeret Erickson then singled in Voetberg, with Ostrom scoring as the wet ball slipped out of the hands of Magallanes in centerfield as he got ready to throw it home.
Juneau responded with three runs in the sixth as Vinson reached on an error and stole second, then scored on a single by Scholl, Scholl stole second and, two outs later, scored when Keys singled, took second on the throw home and advanced to third when the throw went wide for an error. Keys then scored when Malacas reached on an error to make it 10-3.
After that, all Juneau had to do was hold on to earn another victory tof