A steady downpour can make throwing strikes a challenge.
It showed in the first inning of Tuesday’s Alaska District 2 Major Softball Championship Game at Melvin Park.
Gastineau Channel Little League’s Kiah Yadao walked three batters and Ketchikan Little League jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
But the rain started to let up in the second inning, and that boded well for Yadao — and the whole Juneau team. Yadao totaled 10 strikeouts while limiting Ketchikan to just two hits, leading her team to a 6-3 win and state tournament berth. Anchorage’s Abbott-O-Rabbit Little League, who defeated Nunaka Valley 9-8 on Sunday in the District 1 championship, comes to Juneau for a best-of-five series starting Thursday.
“The rain let up and it was like, ‘Now we can play our game without having to worry about making sure they’re grabbing the seams, making sure we don’t have wild pitches,’” Juneau manager Nicole Adair said.
Remi Starks connected on a hit to shallow left field in the bottom of the first inning, scoring Yadao and Saelyr Hunt, who tallied the team’s first hit two batters earlier, making it 2-1.
Yadao canceled out a Chloe Vierra-Sonnenschein hit and Reilly McCue walk with back-to-back strikeouts in the second.
Hunt helped extend the lead later in the inning. After Jack Lovejoy grounded out to the pitcher to score Amira Andrews, Hunt grounded the ball to left field to bring home Mila Hargrave and Jenna Dobson, making it 5-1. Over the next four innings, both teams would combine for only three more runs. Ketchikan scored in the third and fifth innings; Juneau added a sixth run in the fifth inning.
Ketchikan coach Sonny Sonnenschein put Mackenzie Pahang in to pitch in the third and spoke highly of the pitcher after the game.
“They were still hitting Mackenzie a little bit, but we were able to start getting outs a little more routinely,” Sonnenschein said. “But we just couldn’t get around on their pitcher (Yadao). We were just having troubles with the stick. I think we only got two hits (in the game) and in those two hits, one was a bunt and one was a like a swinging bunt, so you can’t win a game doing that.”
It was the second time the two teams squared off in the three-team tournament. Juneau overcame a late one-run deficit to defeat Ketchikan, 7-4, on Friday. Juneau trailed 4-3 headed into the sixth inning but outscored Ketchikan 4-0 in the final two innings.
Adair said she wanted her team to come out stronger this game.
“The first time we played Ketchikan, we waited too long to jump on them and so the game plan was attack early and attack every inning and just chip away and we did that. They scored almost every inning,” Adair said.
After losing to Juneau on Friday, Ketchikan routed Sitka, 16-1, on Sunday. The game ended after three innings. The two Southeast teams played once more on Monday, with Ketchikan again winning, 11-10.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.