The Nunaka Valley All-Stars moved within one win of a second straight Alaska Little League softball state championship Sunday with a 14-1, four-inning win over host Gastineau Channel Little League at Melvin Park.
Nunaka Valley's Lauren Syrup pitched four innings of no-hit softball, keeping the Juneau hitters off balance and striking out seven while walking four.
"Lauren, that's our ace. She pitched Game 1 and I think she hit four of their batters and walked one; but other than that, they didn't have any hits," Nunaka manager Richard Hill said. "They've got some good batters, but she's pretty dominating when she wants to be. She just had a little trouble finding the strike zone today."
Hill pulled Syrup to start the third for reliever Hannah Peterson, but Peterson loaded the bases and Hill sent Syrup back to the circle. She struck out the final two hitters to end the threat with Juneau getting its lone run on a throwing error from home to third base.
GCLL manager Randy Bates said Juneau will have to regroup, much like it did in Game 2, which GCLL won 3-2 after falling 15-0 to Nunaka Valley in Game 1 on Friday.
"Their pitcher is good, and we just didn't hit her today. We'll regroup, see a new pitcher and hit better as we did (Saturday) night," he said. "We have all four pitchers at our disposal and the girls have a great knack for rebounding. (Today) will be a better day, a different day."
Nunaka Valley scored once in the first and three more in the second to take a 4-0 lead while Juneau racked up four errors in the field.
Nunaka tallied eight hits for the game, non bigger than Julia Merritt's inside-the-park grand slam in the third inning when Nunaka tacked on six runs and batted around.
"The inside-the-park home run, I have never seen Julia -n batting practice or in a game or in my dreams -it a ball like that," Hill beamed. "She hit it 40 feet further there than she's ever hit one. I don't know where it came from."
Merritt also scored three runs in addition to her four RBIs. Jacynne Augafa scored twice and had two hits, a single and a triple.
Hill said it's nice to be one win away from another Western Regional berth - the region Nunaka Valley won last year before advancing to the Little League World Series - but he fully expects Juneau to rebound.
"One win away, but that's a tough win. (Juneau) has a competitive ball team. We do know one thing: They can bounce back. They've proven that," he said. "We have to come out here ready to play and to be honest, we came out ready to play in Game 2. We did not take them for granted and they still beat us."
Game 4 is tonight at 7 p.m. at Melvin Park.