JUNEAU EAST 2
The Juneau East Majors (age 11-12) Little League baseball team got off to a rough start in Western Regional play on Sunday, falling to the Washington state champions, 9-2, in San Bernardino, Calif.
The Mill Creek, Wash., squad used a pair of three-run homers - one in the second inning, the other in the third - to build an insurmountable lead over Alaska state champion Juneau East.
Juneau East's offense was led by Sam Clark, whose solo shot in the first inning was his first-ever home run in a game, and by Shawn Ibesate, who had a first-inning double and a single later in the game.
Ibesate started and pitched five innings for Juneau East. Christopher Millay pitched the sixth for the Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars.
Juneau East manager Jeff Jeans said the final score belies the effort put out by his team on Sunday.
"I think the kids did really well," he said. "Washington is one of the top teams down here. Other than those two big hits, it wasn't that dominating of a game for (Washington)."
Jeans said Ibesate pitched an excellent game as Juneau East mixed up different pitches to test the unfamiliar Washington batters. The two big home runs for Washington were on off-speed pitches, and after that tough lesson Ibesate settled down and did not allow a run in the fourth and fifth innings.
Jeans said the experience of playing at a world-class baseball facility, with large crowds for each game, was something the Juneau kids had to get adjusted to.
"It was pretty intimidating at first," he said. "To have all these fans in the stands, the lights, the grass field - it's something they've never experienced."
Juneau East will play the Hawaii state champs at 4 p.m. ADT on Tuesday.
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The team will also have to face extremely hot weather. While Sunday's game was held during the cool of the evening, Juneau East's next match - on Tuesday against the Hawaii state champs - will be held under the blazing afternoon sun.
Yesterday's high temperature in San Bernardino was 95 degrees.
After facing Hawaii on Tuesday, Juneau East will continue in the round-robin portion of the tourney with games against the Oregon state champions on Wednesday and the Montana state champs on Thursday.
The top four teams out of the six-team round robin format will advance to elimination-round play. The winner of the Western Regional tournament earns a trip to the Little League World Series.