The Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars lost 8-3 to Anchorage in game one of the Girls Little League State Softball Championship (for girls ages 11-12). The winner of this week's best-of-three series in Juneau will travel to Vancouver, Wash., on July 25 to represent Alaska in the western regional championships. The Juneau girls face a huge challenge from a powerful Anchorage all-star squad that went undefeated in the District 1 championship tournament in Anchorage.
John Breslin, coach of the Nunaka Valley Little League All-Stars, said his team went 5-0 and only allowed two runs while scoring 78 runs against competition in Anchorage, which earned them the right to battle for the state championship against Juneau.
Little League girls fast pitch softball, which is a summer league, only has two districts in Alaska: district one in Anchorage and district two in Juneau. The Juneau All-Star team was selected from three Juneau teams based on the votes of players and coaches.
All of the girls on the Juneau All-Star team also are part of the Midnight Suns softball program during the winter months, which helps them to hone their skills.
Juneau coach John Schauwecker said the girls practice once a week and the pitchers practice 2-3 days per week. The Midnight Suns softball program starts in September and goes through May.
The Juneau all stars hung tough against the Anchorage team for the first three innings. Juneau scored in the first inning when Gracie Meiners hit a line drive triple to right field, driving in one run. Meiners drove in two more Juneau base runners in the third inning by hitting a single to left field.
Juneau batters had a hard time getting hits against Anchorage's pitcher Pauline Tufi, who struck out eight batters during the game and only allowed six hits in six innings.
"I was really happy with the way Pauline performed. She has been our big gun all year. We used her to win the championship in Anchorage," Breslin said.
Anchorage played aggressive in the third inning with Sydney Smith stealing two bases after being walked by Juneau pitcher Savannah Schauwecker. With two outs and one runner on base, Juneau was set to retire the side, but Anchorage player Gabby Meryerson hit a single.
With a runner on third base the play was at home plate, and Juneau catcher Emily Winters tried to tag Smith out, who was able to slide under the tag. With the score at 1-3 in Juneau's favor, Tufi showed her power by hitting the ball over the fence for a home run, tying the game 3-3.
Anchorage put the game away in the fifth inning by scoring five more runs, off two singles and more stolen bases. Juneau pitchers Schauwecker and Sierra Westika had a minor melt down in the fifth inning and walked a total of four players during the inning.
Coach Schauwecker remained positive despite losing the first game.
"I like our chances tomorrow. We (have) some good pitchers coming back at them. We are not down about this game. We're gonna be able to bounce back. We (have) some good pitchers," Schauwecker said.
Game two is scheduled for today at 6:30 p.m. The Juneau girls need a win tomorrow if they hope to make it to Vancouver for the western region championship.
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