When North Pole jumped out to a three-run, first-inning lead, the Knik All-Stars didn't panic.
Knik scratched out a run here, a couple of runs there, and rallied to beat North Pole 6-4 Sunday in the Alaska State Junior Division (Age 13-14) Little League Baseball Tournament at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
"We knew there was a lot of game left," said Zack Morse, who drove in the game-winning run with a double in the top of the seventh inning, the game's only extra-base hit.
Knik advanced to Tuesday's championship game with the victory, while North Pole has to play Ketchikan at 6 p.m. today in the losers' bracket of the tournament. Knik will play the winner of today's game in Tuesday's championship, with an if-necessary game set for Wednesday in the double-elimination tournament. Knik beat Ketchikan 3-2 in Saturday's tournament opener.
Errors proved costly for North Pole, which committed eight to none for Knik. Five of Knik's six runs were unearned because of the errors.
North Pole jumped out to a three-run lead in the first inning, aided by a two-run single off the bat of Cody Crutcher.
Knik tied the game at 4-all in the fifth inning. In the seventh, Knik's Patrick Sheppard reached on an error, and an out later Morse's double scored pinch runner Jesse Oakes with the winning run. Morse advanced to third on the throw home, and he scored an insurance run when North Pole misplayed a squeeze bunt by Russell Mertens.
"We've been doing that squeeze play a lot in practice," Mertens said. "The pitch was high above my head, but I knew I had to make contact. We haven't lost a game yet."
Morgan threw a complete game for Knik, scattering eight hits, walking four and striking out eight.
The winner of the state title heads to Vancouver, Wash., for the Western Division Tournament next week.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.