The Little League Softball Junior Division state championship best-of-5 series begins today on the heels of the Majors Division tournament in Juneau, with the Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars facing a familiar foe in Nunaka Valley.
The Nunaka Valley Little League All-Stars ousted Juneau's Majors squad from the 2010 Alaska Little League Softball Championship at Melvin Park on Monday, and the Juniors, ages 13-14 as of Dec. 31, 2009, will be looking for a little revenge.
But it won't come easy.
The Juniors from Nunaka Valley, the 2010 District 1 champs out of Anchorage, placed sixth in the world in last year's Little League World Series as then-Majors Division competitors.
The 2009 Nunaka Valley Majors won the Alaska state title and the Western Regional, while GCLL did not field a team, but Juneau won't be intimidated, manager John Boucher said.
"There was more interest (this year) and these girls love to play," he said. "And the more they play, the better they get. I have confidence in our kids, and they have confidence in themselves.
"We worry about what we can do, and we don't worry about who we're playing," he continued. "If we play to the best of our ability and leave it all on the field, we'll be happy. That's the goal."
Boucher said though the GCLL didn't field a team last year, his kids have all been playing together for a long time and know each other's strengths and weaknesses well.
"The girls have been playing together as a group for mostly five to six years," he said. "A lot of them started playing together when they were eight in the lower levels of softball. They've played together with the Midnight Suns, through Little League and now All-Stars. Many of them will play together as high schoolers."
Boucher is playing his strategy close to the vest, and won't divulge who will be starting in the circle tonight, though he did say, "we're going to warm up four or five people."
The last time GCLL played a game was two weeks ago.
"District 2 does not have a tournament," Boucher said. "We've kind of been following the Midnight Suns format. We have an (Amateur Softball Association)-type tournament where all Southeast communities are represented. And this team did very well in it.
"This is our first game with this particular 12," said of his roster. "The last time most of them played was in the ASA tournament, which was two weeks ago. Sitka brought a 14 (-and-under) team, we had a 14U team and so did Ketchikan, and we played really well."
Boucher said the Juniors are excited about the opportunity to earn a bid to the Western Regional tournament in Kirkland, Wash., the first week of August.
"A regional berth is on the line," he said. "State championships are always exciting and we're really looking forward to it."
GCLL Roster: Andrea Gordon, Emma Good, Savanna Schauwecker, Rachelle Roldan, Randi Held, Ashley Boucher, Gracie Meiners, Breanne Chapman, Olivia Raster, Kayla Balovich, Ashley Buck, Sarah Monagle
Nunaka Valley Roster: Rachel Rotela, Kaela Emerson, Devonne Troutman, Marissa Davidson, Denali Smith, Mara Winningham, Taria Page, Pauline Tufi, Gabby Meyerson, Sydney Smith, Samatha McFadden.
GCLL Juniors baseball wins Game 1 in Anchorage
The Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars won Game 1 of the Juniors Division state tournament Sunday, knocking off Abbott O'Rabbitt 3-1 in Anchorage in the best-of-5 championship series.
Juneau rallied from a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and got seven strong innings from a trio of pitchers: Jeffrey Pusich, Tanner Petrie and Nathan Klein, who combined for six strikeouts while the guys behind them played solid defense in the field.
Pusich gave up three hits and the lone AOR run. Klein picked up the win after retiring all seven hitters he faced.
Juneau started the sixth with three straight walks after AOR's fourth pitcher of the game struggled throwing strikes. And three passed balls allowed all three runs to score as Juneau managed just one hit, a double by Jackson Pavitt, the whole game. Tod Baseden, Pavitt and R.J. Markovich each scored runs.
Game 2 was rained out Monday.