It took awhile, but Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League Senior Division All-Stars finally broke through with three runs in the 10th inning to claim a 7-4 victory over Fairbanks in Thursday's opening game of the Alaska State Senior Division (age 15-16) Little League Baseball Tournament at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The GCLL All-Stars were held at bay through the first nine innings by Fairbanks starter Ryan Shaver, who struck out 17 batters while allowing six hits and walking four Juneau batters. But Shaver tired in the ninth, and Juneau jumped on reliever Jared McClain for three unearned runs in the 10th to win the game.
"You've got to give their pitcher a lot of credit," said Juneau shortstop Jordan Davis, who drove in the winning run with a single in the 10th. "I knew the first pitch would be a strike and I got the bat on the ball."
"He (Shaver) had an awesome fastball, a curve and a knuckleball that didn't move much," said Juneau catcher Mike Foster, who drove in two insurance runs in the 10th with a single. "I was just taking advantage of what they threw me. I just connected. I didn't think it would be a hit."
Juneau plays Valdez at 6 p.m. tonight in a winners' bracket game, while Fairbanks plays the loser of tonight's game at 6 p.m. on Saturday in an elimination game. The tournament's championship game is set for 6 p.m. on Sunday, with an if-necessary game at 6 p.m. on Monday.
Shaver worked the low-outside corner of the plate for much of the game, and Juneau had trouble reaching his pitches on that corner. Even though he struck out 17 batters, Shaver was efficient enough that he only made 120 pitches.
"That was my longest outing ever," said Shaver, who struck out 18 batters in a seven-inning league game this season. "My curveball was my main pitch. I threw a fastball, curve and my knuckleball was like a changeup. I don't think they hit it all game. I was tired, I guess, in that last inning. We made some team errors. We beat ourselves."
In the 10th inning Juneau, which was the visiting team for the game even though it's hosting the tournament, had one runner, Jason Morrow, on first base with two outs when C.J. Keys reached on an error at second base. Davis singled to center to drive in Morrow, and he and Keys both advanced an extra base on a throwing error by the Fairbanks centerfielder. Foster followed with a bloop single to left to score Keys and Davis.
"That (Keys reaching on an error) pumped us up," said Juneau centerfielder Sergio Magallanes, who hit a two-run double in the first inning. "We had guys on base and we were just trying to take advantage of the situation."
In the bottom of the 10th, Juneau starting pitcher Wil Ridgeway got Chris Pokrivnak to pop out to second, then McClain singled to single. Shaver grounded into a fielder's choice to erase McClain, then got Steve Tyree to ground out to Keys at second base to end the game.
"That feels good," said Ridgeway, who allowed nine Fairbanks hits and struck out three in his 10-inning performance that nearly ended in the third with leg cramps. "I loosened up. I had a sharp pain when I stepped off the rubber because I didn't drink enough water before the game. After that inning, I let my defense take control."
Juneau scored three runs in the first inning as Erik Scholl knocked home Davis with a fielder's choice and an error, then an out later Magallanes hit his two-out double to score Foster and Scholl. But Fairbanks answered with three runs in the bottom of the first to tie the score. Leonard Huntington reached on an error and scored one out later on a single by McClain, then another out later Tyree singled home McClain and Zach Zellmer singled home Tyree to make it 3-3.
Both pitchers dominated until the seventh inning, when each team scored once to force extra innings. Juneau took a 4-3 lead when Keys drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on an infield single by Foster. Fairbanks tied the game with one out as Walker Haken singled and went to third on an error in right, then scored on a single by Ryan Holz.
Juneau stranded 12 runners in the game, leaving the bases loaded in the fourth inning and the ninth inning with no runs scored. Juneau also left two runners in scoring position in the eighth inning, but each time he got into a jam Shaver had the answer. In the field, Juneau stranded seven Fairbanks runners with the most serious threat coming in the eighth when Fairbanks left runners on second and third.
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Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUNEAU-GCLL 7, FAIRBANKS 4
Thursday's game from Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
JUNEAU-GCLL 300 000 010 3 -- 7 8 6
FAIRBANKS 300 000 010 0 -- 4 9 3
Ridgeway and Foster; Shaver, McClain (10) and Gillette. WP -- Ridgeway. LP -- Shaver. 2B -- Juneau: Magallanes, Keys; Fairbanks: None. 3B -- None. HR -- None.