Juneau made a strong statement Thursday in the opening game of the Alaska State Little League Junior Softball Tournament in Anchorage.
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Juneau routed the District 1 champions, Knik Little League, 11-1 in five innings in Anchorage in Game 1 of the best-of-three series. Juneau, which won the District 2 title via default as the only Little League team in Southeast Alaska fielding an All Star team, scored three runs in the third inning and eight in the fourth in the victory.
"They talked quite a bit about this being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to seize the moment," Juneau manager Dan Nelson said. "All of them were really focused heading into the ball game."
Nelson said Juneau left two runners on base in the first and second innings as his team frequently fouled off pitches.
The flood gates broke open in the third, however.
"They have good pitchers," Nelson said of Knik Little League. "Their first pitcher was a good pitcher and fouled her off numerous times. She only wound up pitching three innings. She pitched the equivalent of 5-6 because of all the foul balls."
Nine players recorded hits for Juneau and eight players scored in a balanced attack.
Taylor Larson tripled, walked and scored twice for Juneau while Megan Hart singled, double and had two runs scored in the win.
Jennifer Nelson tripled and scored, Kalea Chapman doubled and scored twice while Kyra Uddipa, Megan Mauseth, Gabbie Saldivar and Kaci Hansen recorded a single and run scored each for Juneau.
Also for Juneau, Hailey Pusich singled in the win.
While the Juneau bats lit up the scoreboard, the pitching and defense made sure the lead stood.
Jennifer Nelson faced the minimum 12 batters in four innings of work, striking out five batters and allowing one single in the process. Chapman, celebrating her birthday, pitched the fifth inning to close out the game.
The lone single came in the third inning, but Nelson induced a double play to end the threat. Mauseth, playing shortstop, snared a line drive and threw to Larson at first for the double play.
"We had a strong pitching performance and played a complete, all-around game," Dan Nelson said. "We had good defense, good pitching and once we started hitting the pitcher we hit some real shots in the outfield."
Juneau can wrap up the state championship at 6 p.m. tonight in Anchorage. If Knik Little League wins tonight, Game 3 is schedule for 3 p.m. Saturday.
The tournament winner will represent Alaska in the West Region Tournament in Tucson, Ariz., starting Thursday.
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.