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Hannah Barril admitted to being nervous at the start of Monday's second game of the best-of-three championship series in the Alaska State Senior Division (Age 15-16) Little League Softball Tournament at Melvin Park.
Even though she'd pitched in big games before - helping Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars claim last year's state Junior Division (Age 13-14) title and as a freshman with the state runner-up Juneau-Douglas High School team - Barril said she had the jitters.
If so, the jitters didn't matter as Barril teamed up with Torie Powers to throw a one-hitter as the GCLL All-Stars knocked off Kenai 11-0 in five innings to repeat as state Senior Division champions. Juneau heads to Vancouver, Wash., on Friday and will play the Montana state champion on Saturday in the first game of the Western Division tournament.
"At first I was nervous, but everyone said to relax," said Barril, who allowed just a two-out, first-inning single by Elena Bird in her four innings of work; Powers threw the fifth inning. "We were all pretty pleased. My curve was working."
"It was nice," said Ashley Larson, who went 3-for-3 with a double, homer, two runs scored and two RBIs. "We're just happy to go south again, so we can get some sun. We thought we weren't going to play today (because of the rain in other parts of town but not at the softball diamond). I think we've got a better shot at it (winning the Western Division title) this year. Last year we got to the championship game."
Barril could afford to relax after her teammates staked her to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Jordan Johnston, who went 4-for-4 with a double, three runs and two RBIs, led off the game with a single, stole second and third, then scored on a sacrifice bunt by Powers. Larson followed with a double, took third on a come-backer to Kenai pitcher Racheal Gerke, then scored on a single by Ilea Belcourt.
Juneau added four more runs in the second inning as Barril singled and scored an out later when Melissa White reached on an error, Johnston doubled White home with the second run and scored the third run when Powers reached third on an error. Larson singled Powers home to give Juneau a 6-0 lead.
The onslaught continued in the third inning as Nicole Bavard walked, stole second and third, then came home on Barril's triple. Barril made it 8-0 an out later when she scored on a grounder by White.
In the fourth inning, Larson homered to left center field to make it 9-0, picking a fastball off her shoe tops and driving it over the fence. During the high school state tournament, Larson homered against Dimond, sending Dimond's outfielders crashing through a temporary fence after the ball. Later at state, Larson hit a drive against Bartlett that the Bartlett centerfielder caught as she crashed through the fence.
"Yeah, this time the fence stayed up," Larson said. "This fence doesn't give like the others."
"We knew she was due," Kenai coach Q Bird said. "She reached down and got it. It was a nice hit."
Juneau made it 11-0 in the fifth as White tripled with two outs and scored on Johnston's single, then Johnston stole second, took third on an error and scored on another error.
"I was just running as fast as I could," White said of her triple. "I saw it get past the fielder, saw Dennis (manager Dennis Powers) waving me on, and decided I'm not stopping. Seriously, I was running as fast as I could."
In addition to Juneau's offensive fireworks, the GCLL All-Stars helped Barril out on defense. In the third inning, Juneau center fielder Alycia Cox made a nice running, diving catch to rob Kenai's Britney Baier of a hit. Third baseman Ilea Belcourt stole a hit from Katie Stroh in the second inning when her hard throw to Larson at first base just beat Stroh to the bag.
"I thought Jordan (shortstop Jordan Johnston) had it," Cox said of her catch, which was the second of three fly balls in a stretch of four batters that she caught. "They always tell you the first step is always back, and then you go forward. I didn't get much batting, so I had to have my chance to shine."
Juneau outhit Kenai 16-4 and outscored Kenai 19-0 in the two-game series. But Kenai wasn't too down on its first trip to the state tournament.
"It's a great accomplishment for the girls for what they've been able to do in their two months," Bird said. "It's amazing what they can do without a high school program. This was a new level for us."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.