It took some adjusting, but Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars rallied to knock off Ketchikan 4-2 in Sunday's title game of the Southeast Alaska District 2 Junior Division (age 13-14) Little League Baseball Tournament in Wrangell.
Down two runs in the first inning and facing off-speed pitches thrown by Ketchikan starter Gunnar Farstad, Juneau had a hard time hitting early in the game. But late in the game, Juneau found its timing and the All-Stars were able to score three runs in the fifth inning and another run in the sixth to claim the victory.
"It was an excellent all-around game, a tight game," Juneau manager Norm Staton said.
"Ketchikan was keeping us off balance with their off-speed pitching. Our hitters were a little too far ahead of it. We weren't hitting like we were when we beat them 16-5 earlier in the tournament. We're more geared to faster pitches and curves. Our guys were popping the ball up. We'll work on it before state."
Ketchikan, which dropped into the losers' bracket when Juneau won on Thursday, had to win twice on Sunday to claim the district title. Juneau, which was the only undefeated team in the tournament, had to win once.
Ketchikan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Juneau starter Joe Kohan walked the lead-off hitter, struck out the next two batters, then hit another. Eric Cessnun singled to right, and both runs scored when Cessnun's grounder got past the right fielder and went to the wall.
But that was the only hit Kohan allowed for the game, striking out eight over seven innings.
Juneau finally got on the board with three runs in the fifth as Buzz Ward hit an RBI double to highlight the rally. Shawn Ibesate, Nick Andrews and Ward scored in the inning.
Juneau added an insurance run in the sixth inning when Andrews singled home Zack Heppner. The inning ended on a nice defensive play third baseman Callie Klein, the only female player in the tourney. Klein caught a liner to third, then stepped on the bag to get an unassisted double play.
Ward was 3-for-4 for Juneau, while Sam Clark went 2-for-3.
Juneau will remain in Wrangell this week for the state tournament, which opens at 6 p.m. Tuesday when Juneau plays Knik of Eagle River-Chugiak in the first game of a best-of-three series. The winner of the Juneau-Knik series heads to Forest Grove, Ore., for the regional tournament next week.
"Some of our kids saw Knik's roster and they said seven of their 11 players were on the team Juneau East beat twice two years ago when the state (Major Division) tournament was in Southeast," Staton said.