Juneau captured the District 2 Little League Junior Baseball title the hard way on Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
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After beating Sitka 5-4 on Thursday in the first of a best-of-three series, Juneau dropped Saturday's opener 7-2 before rallying to win the title later that afternoon with a 5-2 victory.
"It feels great," Juneau's Eric Sele said. "It'll be good to get out of Juneau for a while."
Sele went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored in the decisive game.
Juneau pounded our nine hits in the final game. With the win, Juneau will face District 1 champs Dimond West in a best-of-three series for the state championship in Eagle River, beginning 6 p.m. Tuesday.
"They battled hard," Juneau manager Rod Baker said. "They're a great group of kids. They just have to get a little more confidence, believe in themselves and they'll be unstoppable. They've got more talent than the world, they just need to find a way to get focused for baseball. They're all ballplayers and they can do it."
After three scoreless innings, Juneau, playing as the visiting team, struck for two runs in the top of the fourth.
Aaron Cohen led off with a double and scored off Keath Flint's single. Hunter Mallinger and Sele followed with back-to-back doubles to increase Juneau's lead to 2-0.
Juneau went up 3-0 an inning later as Cohen scored off a Sitka error.
Sitka responded, however, with two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
After Ivan Riefenstuhl singled to lead off the inning, David Reynolds drove him home with an RBI ground ball.
D.J. Hatmaker later scored off an error to slice Juneau's lead to 3-2. Sitka may have taken the lead if not for some slick defense, however.
Juneau turned double plays in the second and fourth innings, and an alert play by Sele at third base led to a tag out at home in the fifth.
"Our defense is very good," Baker said. "We don't have any holes. ... I have confidence in every one of them."
Juneau added two more runs in the seventh as Flint and Sele delivered RBI singles.
"Those were huge hits," Baker said. "We needed those insurance runs in the end. You never know what's going to happen so that was great."
Starting pitcher Dylan Baker pitched a strong 413 innings to earn the win. Baker allowed just one run off three hits in the victory. Cohen allowed just one hit in the final 223 innings.
For Sitka, starting pitcher Jacob Houston delivered a gritty effort. Houston scattered nine hits in 623 innings.
Offensively for Juneau, Cohen went 1-for-4 with two runs scored. Flint was 2-for-3. Justin Brooks scored a run, and Jamie Daniel went 1-for-1 with two walks and a sacrifice bunt.
For Sitka, Kevin See, Lucas Clark, Reynolds and Riefenstuhl hit singles.
In Saturday's first game, Sitka's Derrick Esquerra silenced Juneau's bats in a 7-2 win.
Esquerra went all seven innings, striking out six batters, walking five, allowing six hits and two runs in victory.
"He's probably MVP of the tournament," Baker said of Esquerra. "He had a great tourney."
Sitka struck for three runs in the third as Esquerra delivered an RBI double. Esquerra and Hatmaker later came home in the inning.
Sitka scored four more in the seventh to seal the win as Esquerra hit a two-run double and See connected on a mammoth two-run home run to center field.
Juneau fought back for two runs in the bottom half of the seventh but failed to complete the comeback.
Sitka and Juneau ended up splitting four games in the tournament.
"What a great battle," Sitka manager Keith Perkins said. "This age group has been battling for the last three years. It's been a kick in the butt and it's going to be fun for the next four. They'll be playing each other until their senior year in high school."
Editor's note: Due to an error in Friday's Little League story, a corrected version of the story with a corrected headline will be on www.juneauempire.com. For a full correction, please see Page B2. Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com
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