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Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars needed an extra inning to win Saturday's opening game of the state Junior Division (age 13-14) Little League softball tournament.
Hannah Barril was locked in a scoreless pitchers' duel with the Knik duo of Amanda Mendenhall and Karly Viereck at the end of the scheduled seven innings of play, so the GCLL All-Stars had to work overtime for the victory. Barril and Torie Powers both scored runs on throwing errors in the top of the eighth inning, then Barril escaped a small jam in the bottom of the inning as Juneau claimed a 2-0 victory at Melvin Park.
"I knew we'd win because no one was getting down on themselves," Barril said. "We'll win as long as I've got faith in my teammates."
The game was the opener of a best-of-three-game series that continues at 6 p.m. tonight. An if-necessary game will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday. The winner advances to the Northwest Division tournament July 26-30 in Couer d'Alene, Idaho.
In Saturday's game, Barril only allowed two hits and two walks as she kept Knik off-balance at the plate. Barril struck out five batters.
While Barril was shining on the mound for Juneau, Knik was using an unusual two-person rotation at pitcher and first base.
Mendenhall started and went the first two innings, then Viereck swapped positions and pitched the third, fourth and fifth innings. Mendenhall pitched the sixth inning, while Viereck threw the seventh and eighth innings. Together, the two Knik pitchers held Juneau to six hits while walking none and striking out six.
"They had about the same accuracy, but the big one (Viereck) was a little faster," Juneau second baseman Madison Massey said of the two Knik pitchers.
Barril led off the game with a double and stole second, but Mendenhall escaped the first inning without any damage. Juneau catcher Kayla Janelle singled with two outs in the second, but Knik again escaped. Powers singled and reached second in the third inning, Sara Manning reached first on an error in the fifth inning and Sammy Roguska singled and took second on an error in the sixth inning for Juneau's other threats before extra innings.
In the meantime, Barril walked Knik's Megan Volk in the second inning, Savanna Pifer reached first on an error in the third and Chelsey Nichols singled in the fourth. But none of those three Knik hitters advanced beyond first base. The toughest jam for Barril came in the fifth inning when pinch-hitter Heather Norby singled and pinch-runner Jaime Weinburger stole second and went to third on a sacrifice bunt.
In the top of the eighth inning, Barril singled with one out and stole second base. Powers hit an infield single to Knik third baseman Molly Metcalf, who looked Barril back toward second before overthrowing Mendenhall at first base. Barril came around to score the game's first run while Powers went to second on the overthrow. The next hitter, GCLL third baseman Andrea Doerflinger, grounded to Knik shortstop Jessica Ludvigsen, who overthrew first which allowed Powers to score although Knik was able to erase Doerflinger.
"I didn't know she made an overthrow, I was just running," Barril said.
"I wasn't thinking she'd overthrown the bag," Powers said. "We never watch the ball. We watch the base coach."
In the bottom of the inning, Barril got the first two outs as Pifer popped to second and Kaitlin Wells grounded out to third. But Ludvigsen reached on an error and Metcalf walked to put runners on first and second. Mendenhall ended the game when she hit a foul pop to first that Juneau first baseman Sara Manning caught against the fence after running around the base ump to chase it down.
"I was all pumped and ready," Manning said. "I was worried about the fence."
Powers said earlier this week Juneau's Alycia Maryott ran into the fence in practice and bit through her lower lip.
"It was nerve-wracking," Powers said. "This is the most important game, because by winning today we take some pressure off for tomorrow's game. If we lose tomorrow, we've still got Monday's game."
"We're going to win anyway," Roguska said.
Despite the loss, Knik said it will be ready for today's rematch.
"It was a shame to lose that way," Knik manager Cal Mendenhall said, who added that he uses the pitcher rotation to keep opposing hitters off balance. "We're blessed with four pitchers and they're all good. Our heads weren't down."