A young and inexperienced Juneau Junior Little League team battled to the last inning, the last out and the last game of the District 1 Southeast championship tournament on Sunday in Ketchikan. They overcome a powerful and experienced Sitka team 9-8 and will move on to the state championship in Anchorage this week.
After taking first place in the round-robin, Juneau faced Sitka in a best-of-three series. Juneau won the first game 15-5. Sitka came back to win the second game 17-5.
In the third and final game on Sunday in Ketchikan, Juneau started off hot against Sitka, taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning, with a double by Lance Ibesate, a single by Chris Luck and a double by Kyle Gould.
Juneau added two more in the second inning, and three in the fifth, with the score 9-0 at the end of five innings. Through the fifth, Sitka's offense was stifled by the one-hit pitching of Lance Ibesate and solid defense.
In the sixth inning, Sitka mounted a comeback by jumping on Juneau's relief pitching and took advantage of some sloppy defense caused in part by the sloppy weather, scoring seven runs.
In the bottom of the seventh, the final inning in junior division, Sitka loaded the bases with one out and the top of the batting order coming up.
Juneau brought in relief pitcher Chris Luck, getting Sitka's lead off hitter to fly out deep to left field with a fantastic catch by Juneau left fielder Dee Campos, but sacrificing a run in to make it a one run game. With runners on second and third and two outs, Luck got Sitka's hitter to ground out, ending the game.
For the game, Kyle Gould was 2-for-3 with two walks.
As catcher throughout the tourney, Luck was 2-5 and played stellar defense, throwing out Sitka's top base runners attempting to steal second.
Juneau will advance to the state championship on Wednesday in Anchorage. They will play Dimond West, who has outscored their opponents 93-3 so far.
Juneau manager Sheldon Winters says the Dimond West team is the same team that two years ago played in the western regional championship game and is likely one of the top 10 baseball teams in the country.
"Nonetheless, we plan to give it our best shot and have fun at the same time," Winters said.
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