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Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars weren't happy with their performance the first time they played Valdez in the Alaska State Senior Division (age 15-16) Little League Baseball Tournament at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Juneau committed six errors in losing to Valdez on Friday, so in Monday's rematch the GCLL All-Stars hoped for a clean game defensively. Juneau only made one error on Monday en route to a 2-1 victory, forcing another game at 2 p.m. today to decide the championship.
"Our defense came through," Juneau third baseman Erik Scholl said. "We wanted revenge."
"Our defense was a lot better, even if we didn't hit much better," Juneau catcher Mike Foster said.
On Friday, Valdez beat Juneau 8-2 as the errors played a part in all but two of the runs and spoiling a 10-strikeout performance by Matt Greely. In Monday's rematch, Greely again took the mound for Juneau but this time he only had three strikeouts as he scattered four Valdez hits and no walks over seven innings.
"This time we had no errors and they were hitting the ball right at people," Greely said. "We had more intensity, especially since we didn't want to get swept at home."
Juneau struck first, scoring once in the bottom of the first inning as Foster hit a two-out double and scored on a single by Scholl. Kyle Lanz followed with a single and and error that sent him to second base and Scholl to third, but the inning ended on a grounder to second by Sergio Magallanes.
Valdez tied the game in the fourth inning as Matt Smith walked, took second on a passed ball, then scored two outs later on a single by Nathan Ayotte.
It was the only time in the game Valdez had a runner get beyond second base. Kris Craig hit a double for Valdez in the first inning, but was stranded. In the second inning, Ayotte reached on Juneau's lone error, stole second, then was erased at third on a fielder's choice. The second inning ended for Valdez on a baserunning blunder, when Dylan Warkenthien grounded to third and Curtis Doughman, who had been at first mistakenly thought the ball had been caught at third and returned to first base where he was tagged to complete a double play.
"We made some mental errors, and some baserunning mistakes," Smith said. "We hit some line drives right at people."
Juneau scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning, but not without some controversy. Greely singled and went to third when C.J. Keys reached on an error by Craig, the Valdez pitcher. Jordan Davis then hit a grounder to second and Greely started toward home, only to stop after Davis was thrown out, then start home again to get into a small pickle. Greely scrambled around catcher Smith's tag, and was ruled safe even though the Valdez coaches and players thought he'd left the basepaths.
"He was out of the baseline," Craig said.
"I tagged him," Smith added.
As for Greely, he said, "I'm not answering," when asked if he was out of the basepath.
The Juneau players said Sunday's rainout helped them gain a day of rest, especially since they'd played games Thursday, Friday and Saturday while Valdez only played one game on Friday.
"That rainout was awesome," Keys said. "We were skipping stones in the puddles out there, and we were going to start sliding around. I think we've got the momentum now."
"I've been in tournaments like this before, and I've seen the team in the losers' bracket come back and beat the team in the winners' bracket in the championship game, like we did, then win the if-necessary game," Foster said. "I think we've got a good shot."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
JUNEAU-GCLL 2, VALDEZ 1
Monday's game from Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
VALDEZ 000 100 0 -- 1 4 1
JUNEAU-GCLL 100 010 x -- 2 6 1
Craig and Smith; Greely and Foster. WP -- Greely. LP -- Craig. Sv -- None. 2B -- Valdez: Craig; Juneau: Foster. 3B -- None. HR -- None.