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The Juneau Majors went down fighting, but Saturday's loss to Nunaka Valley means they'll play again for the state title today.
Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars dropped an 8-5 decision to the Anchorage team in Saturday's second game of the best-of-three Alaska State Major Division (age 11-12) Little League Softball Tournament at Melvin Park, which evened the series at one game each. Juneau won Friday's opener 6-3.
That means the teams return to the field at 3 p.m. today for the if-necessary game, with the winner heading to the regional tournament in Vancouver, Wash., this coming weekend.
"I really want to beat them," Juneau pitcher-shortstop Krista Barril said.
"We're going to win," Nunaka Valley first baseman Allison Schoenborn said.
In Saturday's game, both teams struggled to score runs and each team had two runners thrown out at the plate. That, combined with a three-hour delay for the start of the game because of Saturday afternoon's freak thunderstorm and a 30-minute rain delay in the fifth inning, set things up for a wild finish.
Juneau rallied for two runs in the top of the sixth. But it wasn't enough to counter the five runs Nunaka Valley scored in the bottom of the fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie.
It took a nice defensive play by Schoenborn - who caught a liner at her shoetops, then stepped on the bag to double off the runner - to keep Juneau from scoring more runs in the sixth.
"Oh, gosh, it was scary," Schoenborn said. "It happened so fast."
"It was really cool," Nunaka Valley pitcher Brooke Dunlap said of the double play. "They're a really good team. We just came out and said, 'we're playing to win.' I was kind of freaked out."
Juneau had four hits - including back-to-back doubles by Barril and Brittany Fenumiai - in the sixth inning and outhit Nunaka Valley 8-3 for the game. But a series of walks (partly caused by wet balls slickened by the rain) and a two-run triple by shortstop Rachel Schoenborn gave Nunaka Valley its five-run lead.
Juneau also had eight runners left on base Saturday - including the bases loaded, twice - after leaving 13 runners on base in Friday's victory.
"I just wanted to be able to hit back a little and show them what I could do," said Barril, who was Juneau's pitcher for most of the game. "I hope when we have the bases loaded we can get home on Sunday."
"That last inning I felt like we were more trying to get people home," said Fenumiai, who had two triples to go with her two-run double. "I hope I can do the same thing tomorrow."
Juneau opened the scoring Saturday in the second when Taylor Larson walked, took third on a single by Jackie Koerperich and scored on an error for a 1-0 lead. But Nunaka Valley countered with two runs in the bottom of the second as Dunlap reached on an error and scored on a single by Maggie Hanrahan and Allison Schoenborn walked and scored on a wild pitch.
Juneau tied the game in the third as Megan Mauseth singled and one out later Fenumiai tripled her home. But Fenumiai was thrown out at the plate trying for the inside-the-park homer. Nunaka Valley had a chance to score in the third, but Rachel Schoenborn was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a fly to center by Yolanda Alailefaleula. Juneau loaded the bases in the fourth, but didn't score as Nunaka Valley got a force at home.
As the rain started in the fourth, both pitchers struggled with location because of the slick balls, even though the umpires were alternating balls and coaches were using towels to wipe them dry between pitches. Nunaka Valley loaded the bases and Juneau was able to throw one run out at the plate, but Allison Schoenborn scored on a bases-loaded walk by Rachel Schoenborn to make it 3-2. In the top of the fifth, Barril walked and Fenumiai tripled her home to tie the score before the game was delayed for 30 minutes.
After the delay Nunaka Valley got out of the jam without Fenumiai scoring, then took control of the game with its rally.
Friday's game was a showcase for the pitchers as Fenumiai threw a two-hitter and had 15 strikeouts for Juneau while Nunaka Valley's Ginny Rosser threw a three-hitter and had nine strikeouts. The difference was that Rosser also walked 13 batters and Nunaka Valley committed four errors, which made up for Juneau's stranded-runner difficulties. Juneau had no errors.
Nunaka Valley took a 1-0 lead in the first when Rachel Schoenborn walked and scored on a single by Alailefaleula. Juneau tied the score in the second when Mauseth singled and scored when Fenumiai reached on an error.
After leaving the bases loaded in each of the first three innings, Juneau scored two runs in the fourth as Barril walked and scored on a wild pitch, and Annie Hegar walked and Mauseth, her courtesy runner, scored on a single by Jennifer Nelson. Juneau added three more runs in the fifth as Mariah Bowman walked and scored on a triple by Fenumiai, then walks forced in Fenumiai and Lii Levale. Nunaka Valley scored twice in the top of the sixth on a two-run triple by Dunlap, but Fenumiai struck out the last two batters to end the game.