Seventh-inning rally gives Juneau Juniors a state championship

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2004

Jon Davis came to the plate in a situation batters dream of - and dread.

Tie game. Bottom of the final inning. Two outs. Runner in scoring position. State title on the line.

The pitch, the swing, and crack - Davis hit an RBI double to right-center field in the bottom of the seventh to give Juneau a 5-4 win over Knik and the championship Wednesday at the Alaska State Junior Division (age 13-14) Little League Baseball Tournament in Wrangell.

"I was just taking deep breaths and concentrating on trying to get a base hit," Davis said. "I didn't even feel the bat hit the ball. ...

"I was imagining it was like the very beginning of the game. It was 4-4 - just like a new game."

After Corey Mahar crossed home plate to score on Davis' hit, the Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars stormed the field. The newly crowned state champs rode a Wrangell fire truck - sirens blaring, lights flashing - on a roundabout route through the town.

Juneau won the best-of-three series - they beat Knik, of Eagle River-Chugiak, 13-1 on Tuesday - and, after a brief stop in Juneau, will head to the Northwest Regional tournament in Forest Grove, Ore., next week.

Knik went ahead in the top of the second, as Avery Beck walked and reached second on an error. Two more walks loaded the bases, and Beck scored on a passed ball.

Juneau tied the game in the bottom of the third. Joe Kohan reached first base on a fielder's choice, then stole second and third. Knik's throw to third base was wide, and Kohan scrambled home to tie the game.

Kohan's baserunning got Juneau on the board again in the bottom of the fifth. After hitting a single, he worked his way around to third. When Geoff Davis hit a grounder to first base, Kohan took off for home plate, dove over a bat in the basepath and slid headfirst to narrowly beat the throw home and give Juneau a 2-1 lead.

"I had to make something happen," he said. "We didn't have a lot of baserunners."

Juneau manager Norm Staton said he trusts Kohan's decisions on the basepaths.

"Some guys on the team just have a green light" to run, Staton said. "These guys have played a lot of baseball - they know when to go."

Zach Heppner laid down a bunt to score Millay and give Juneau a 3-1 lead.

Knik tied the game at 3-all in the top of the sixth. Juneau committed a two-run error with on out, before starting pitcher Buzz Ward caught a Knik runner in a rundown between third base and home plate and then struck out a batter to end the inning.

Ward did not allow a hit in the game and tallied nine strikeouts, though walks and Juneau errors kept Knik in the running.

"About the fifth inning, he started to get his curveball going over the plate," Staton said of Ward. "He said, 'I'm driving the bus. Don't take me out.' You like to see a kid who will battle."

After some discussion about halting the game due to darkness after six innings, the umpires allowed play to continue.

Knik went ahead 4-3 in the top of the seventh on a Juneau throwing error to set up the All-Stars' last-inning heroics.

With one out, Geoff Davis walked, stole second, then scored when Heppner hit a double down the third-base line - it hit the chalk, making it a fair ball by just inches. Mahar came on to pinch-run for Heppner, and scored an out later on Jon Davis' hit.

"It was such a thrilling game," Ward said. "State champions - it's pretty great."

• The Juneau Empire sports desk can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.



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