It was one of those innings that can decimate a team.
Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars had just given up five unearned runs on four errors in the third inning, falling behind by four runs during Monday's second game of their best-of-three series with Knik in the state Junior Division (age 13-14) Little League softball tournament.
The inning could have killed the GCLL All-Stars. But instead, the Juneau players jiggled the handle and the inning was flushed from their minds as Juneau rallied to claim a 9-5 victory at Melvin Park.
"We use the term 'flush it,'" Juneau center fielder Alycia Cox said when asked how her team copes with a bad inning.
"Yeah, we flush it and act like nothing happened," Juneau pitcher Torie Powers added. "We were ready to win."
Juneau needed an extra inning to beat Knik in the tournament opener on Saturday, winning 2-0 in the eighth inning after a pair of Knik throwing errors allowed two unearned runs after a scoreless pitchers' duel lasted for seven innings. Sunday's rematch game was postponed because of rain, setting up Monday's action.
Monday's victory clinched the state title for Juneau, which now heads to Couer d'Alene, Idaho, for the Northwest Division tournament on July 26-30.
The GCLL All-Stars scored once in the top of the first inning as shortstop Hannah Barril singled, stole second and third and scored on a triple to left by Powers. Sammy Roguska's bunt single wasn't able to score Powers from third, and Knik got out of the jam when right fielder Rena Dalman grounded into a 1-3-2 double play.
Despite an admitted case of nerves, Powers was perfect on the mound through the first two innings as she twice set Knik down in order.
"It was scary," Powers said. "I was worried about how they'd be able to hit off me."
Knik scored its only runs of the tournament in the bottom of the third inning, using four hits and four errors for five unearned runs as the team from Chugiak-Eagle River took a 5-1 lead.
Knik right fielder Savanna Pifer led off the inning with a single to right and her courtesy runner Jaime Weinburger took second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Kaitlyn Wells. Left fielder Brittney Bjornstad popped out to second base for the second out and it seemed like Juneau might get out of the inning unscathed.
But shortstop Jessica Ludvigsen hit an infield single and Weinburger, who'd been checked back to second, scored on a pair of errors (a bobble and a throwing error) that allowed Ludvigsen to go to third. Pitcher-first baseman Amanda Mendenhall singled home Ludvigsen to make it 2-1, then took third when third baseman Molly Metcalf reached on another error. Metcalf stole second, then Megan Volk hit a two-run single to score Mendenhall and Metcalf. First baseman-pitcher Karly Viereck ended the rally when she reached on an error that scored Volk.
"For awhile there we were so excited because we got all those points," Volk said. "We really wanted to try and do our best. This one was more exciting than the first game. We did good. We all gave our best and tried our hardest."
While the Juneau players looked a little frustrated during Knik's big inning, the team quickly regrouped as it came to bat in the top of the fourth inning.
"No one got down," Juneau third baseman Andrea Doerflinger said, adding that Midnight Suns softball tournament experience in Oregon early in the month helped the Juneau players. "We got down for some of our games down there."
"I felt it. I felt the win," Barril said.
Roguska led off the inning with a walk, took second on a passed ball and went to third on a wild pitch. Dalman walked and stole second, then Cox grounded into a fielder's choice where all runners were safe and the bases were loaded. Doerflinger grounded back to the pitcher, who threw Roguska out at home so Juneau still hadn't scored.
But Viereck threw a wild pitch and Dalman scored to make it 5-2. Pinch hitter Alicia Maryott grounded back to the pitcher, who caught Cox in a rundown between third and home. But Cox was able to barrel over Wells and, after a couple of misses, found home plate with her hand before Wells could get the loose ball and tag her. One out later, pinch hitter Madison Massey hit a two-run single to right that scored Doerflinger and Maryott to tie the game at 5-5.
"I didn't want to mess up," Massey said. "I was so nervous."
"I saw the ball go over my head and I knew the girl (Wells) was right in front of me," said Cox, who had to ask her coaches if she'd been safe after her collision at home. "I was just trying to make sure I touched home."
Juneau set Knik down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fourth, then took the lead 6-5 in the top of the fifth. Powers singled and took second on an error in left, took third when Sara Manning's bunt resulted in no throw because no Knik player covered first. Powers scored when catcher Alana Snider tried to pick her off third and overthrew the bag. Juneau left runners on second and third after a double by Cox to end the inning.
Ludvigsen, Knik's lead-off hitter in the fifth, reached first when a slow throw from first baseman Manning to second baseman Massey covering was a second late. But Mendenhall grounded into a double play started by Barril to end the threat.
"The double play was awesome," Juneau catcher Kayla Janelle said.
"We got those outs and we kept our confidence," Roguska said.
Juneau escaped a jam in the bottom of the sixth when Knik left runners on first and third, then scored three insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Powers singled, took third on an error at first and scored on an error by the catcher. An out later, Dalman walked and went to third on a single by Cox, who took second on an error in right. Doerflinger singled Dalman and Cox home to close out the game's scoring. Powers set Knik down 1-2-3 to end the game.
"We're more than a team, we're a family," Cox yelled as the GCLL All-Stars posed for post-game photos.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
GCLL JUNIOR ALL-STARS 9, KNIK 5
Monday's state tourney game from Melvin Park
GASTINEAU CHANNEL LL 100 410 3 - 9 10 4
KNIK LL 005 000 0 - 5 6 5
GCLL - Powers and Janelle. Knik - Mendenhall, Viereck (3), Metcalf (4), Viereck (4), Mendenhall (5), Viereck (7), Ludvigsen (7) and Wells, Snider (5), Wells (7). WP - Powers. LP - Mendenhall. Sv - None. 2B - GCLL 1 (Cox 1), Knik 0. 3B - GCLL 1 (Powers 1), Knik 0. HR - None.