Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars almost pulled off an incredible comeback Tuesday night, but came up a few inches short in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Dimond-West in the series-clinching second game of the Alaska State Senior Division (age 15-16) Little League Softball Tournament at Melvin Park.
For the entire seven-inning game, Dimond-West, of Anchorage, did not make any errors while Juneau made five errors resulting in four unearned runs.
Dimond-West drew first blood in the fourth inning when Raquel Ranger, who limited Juneau to only one run in a complete-game 3-1 victory pitching performance in Monday's first game of the series, rifled a single that rolled to the centerfield wall. After advancing to second base on a passed ball, she came around to score when Juneau pitcher Stephanie Heard misplayed a sacrifice attempt. Dimond-West added another run in the fifth, to make it 2-0, when lead-off hitter Stephanie DeFreez scored from third on a squeeze play at the plate that was botched by the second baseman.
In the bottom of the fifth inning the GCLL All-Stars rallied for one run, then they tied the game in the sixth. Lindsey Forrest ignited the crowd and Juneau's furious comeback by smacking a single into centerfield.
"Just being relaxed and approaching it like any other game," said Forrest of her hit that broke up the no-hit bid by Anchorage pitcher Whitney Strid.
A sacrifice bunt moved Forrest to second base, and Juneau manager Jana Heard sent in pinch-hitter Lacey Bartlett who delivered with an RBI single.
"I was told to watch the first pitch and I was just glad to hit the ball," said Bartlett after driving in Juneau's first run.
Jessica Grimm started the Juneau sixth inning by drawing a lead-off walk. Stride lost control after the walk and threw two consecutive wild-pitches. With the crowd sensing that Stride was on the ropes, Stephanie Heard stepped into the batter's box and ripped an RBI double to left.
However, Dimond-West responded in the top of the seventh with two runs of their own on a costly Juneau error.
After drawing a lead-off walk, Dimond-West then hit into a fielder's choice, a single and recorded a strike-out to put runners on first and third base with two outs. Ranger then tapped a routine grounder to the third baseman. Rachel Barril fielded the ball cleanly but hurried her toss to first base. The ball sailed a few inches above the reach of the first baseman and into short rightfield -- allowing both runners to score.
Juneau never threw in the towel, though, starting another rally in the bottom of the seventh.
With only one out remaining in the ball game -- and their season for that matter -- Shannon King drew a walk. Sara Garcia, who had stranded two runners in scoring position earlier in the game redeemed herself with a towering RBI double to straightaway center that just missed being a home-run.
"My brother said that he'd give me $50 if I hit a ball over the fence," Garcia said.
Juneau's rally fell short however when Strid got Barril to tap a weak grounder for the final out of the game.
Forrest commented on Juneau's tough loss, "We had really tried but it was just unfortunate that it didn't work out at the end for us."
Dimond-West advances to the Pacific Northwest Division Playoffs in Great Falls, Mont.
Wayne Xia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dimond-West 4, Juneau-GCLL 3
Tuesday's game from Melvin Park
Dimond-West 000 110 2 -- 4 5 0
Juneau-GCLL 000 011 1 -- 3 5 5
Heard, Israelson (5) and Forrest; Stride and Smith. WP --- Stride. LP -- Israelson. Sv -- None. 2B -- Juneau: Garcia, Heard; Dimond-West: None. 3B -- None. HR -- None.