Katelyn Sulser, right, hits a game-defining bases-loaded triple for Juneau, giving her team the lead for good, in the second inning against Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in the decisive game of the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. Juneau scored six runs in the inning to take a 7-2 lead before going on to win 15-5. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire).

Katelyn Sulser, right, hits a game-defining bases-loaded triple for Juneau, giving her team the lead for good, in the second inning against Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in the decisive game of the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. Juneau scored six runs in the inning to take a 7-2 lead before going on to win 15-5. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire).

Two-hit wonder: Juneau wins state softball tournament with pair of three-run shots

Majors team going to regions in California after 15-5 rout against Anchorage club to win series 3-0

An early three-run double gave the Juneau softball team a lead. A subsequent inside-the-park home run that scored three more runs ended the game early with a 15-5 victory Saturday, giving the Juneau girls the Majors Softball State Tournament title and a trip to the Western Region tournament in California this week.

The team of 11 teenagers on the Gastineau Channel Little League team, following, its earlier victory in the local regional tournament, swept Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in three straight games to win the state tournament. Saturday’s game was played in near-80 degree heat, only a few degrees below the all-time record of 83 for the date in Juneau, along with a muggy level of humidity that players and coaches said seemed to wear the visiting team down as the game progressed.

Juneau fell behind 2-1 after the first inning, but roared back with a six-run second inning that provided all the scoring they would need to emerge triumphant.

Juneau’s Katelyn Sulser hit a game-changing double with the bases loaded, giving Juneau a 4-2 lead. She and two other teammates subsequently scored, ending the inning with Juneau in front 7-2.

“I never looked where I hit it,” Sulser said after the game. “I just swing. I hear the contact and I just run.”

Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit narrowed the gap at the top of the third by loading the bases and scoring two runs before Juneau pitcher Riley Morehouse was able to halt the comeback effort. Juneau scored two more runs during the bottom of the third and two in the fourth inning, putting the team solidly ahead 11-4.

The Anchorage team made one last gasp in the top of the fifth, scoring on a triple with two outs to make the tally 11-5. But the next batter hit a flyout that proved to be the team’s last at-bat, as errant pitching and fielding by Abbot-O-Rabbit during the last half of the inning cost the team the game and tournament.

“I think maybe they were getting pretty tired and getting their hopes a little down,” Sulser said. “But it’s important to just never lose your focus even though you’re winning.”

Hazel Metzgar hit a leadoff single for Juneau, then stole second base on a wild pitch that got away from Abbot-O-Rabbit’s catcher. A’Rhiyana Ma’ake then bunted safely to advance Metzgar to third, who scored to make the game 12-4 when another pitch went into the dirt.

Two of the next three Juneau batters walked — one on four straight pitches by pitcher Charlotte Nelson — while one struck out.

That brought Ryann Olivia to the plate for what proved to be the game-ender. She hit a fly to left field that was dropped, allowing sibling players Eden and Brooklynn Boyden-Collison to score — and then a fielding error to the infield allowed Olivia to cross home plate and provide the 10-point winning margin.

Olivia said the heat wasn’t bothering her during her last at-bat.

“I still felt pretty good,” she said. “I was hoping to get a good hit and I did.”

Chris Boin, Abbot-O-Rabbit’s manager, agreed the heat was wearing down his players toward the end and he noted Nelson was pitching for the first time in the tournament because “we’ve been riding a couple of other hotter pitchers.” But, he said ultimately the heat wasn’t the reason his team lost.

“We played a good team,” he said. “They made the plays. We played a great game too. But at the end of the day they’re the better team. They were able to expose our flaws and make the plays that we weren’t.”

The Juneau team’s next game will be the July 22 opening game of the Little League Softball Northwest Region Tournament in San Bernardino, California. The game at 11 a.m. Alaska time against an opponent from Oregon will be televised on ESPN+.

For Olivia, that’s an enormously satisfying achievement.

“Last year I was on the Minors all-star team and we just got destroyed, so this just feels like a huge comeback,” she said.

Trisha Lee, the Juneau team’s manager, said the conditions were a challenge for both teams due to playing multiple tournament games with little rest.

“It’s a lot,” she said. “It’s the mental focus and it’s definitely easy to get tired.”

However, Lee said Juneau’s sweep of the series has her “over-the-moon excited” looking ahead to literally a whole new league in terms of challenge during the upcoming tournament in California.

“These girls have worked so hard and they work so well together,” she said. “Our goal has been we’re going to California. We have a great coaching team. For quite a few of the girls this is their last year in this division. And it’s like ‘let’s do this guys, you know?’ So it’s just been taking it one day at a time, one game at a time.”

Other tournament results

The Diamond West Junior All Stars defeated Juneau’s Gastineau Channel Little League juniors team in three straight games that concluded Friday — by scores of 8-0, 16-3 and 11-0 — to win the Juniors Softball State Tournament title.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Juneau’s Aurora Lee tags an out at first base to help prevent an attempted comeback by Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in the decisive game of the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s Aurora Lee tags an out at first base to help prevent an attempted comeback by Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in the decisive game of the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Riley Morehouse pitches for Juneau during the third inning of a game against Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit during the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. The Anchorage team attempted to come back from a 7-2 deficit by loading the bases and scoring two runs during the inning before Morehouse ended the rally. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Riley Morehouse pitches for Juneau during the third inning of a game against Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit during the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. The Anchorage team attempted to come back from a 7-2 deficit by loading the bases and scoring two runs during the inning before Morehouse ended the rally. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A’Rhiyana Ma’ake (9), Hazel Metzgar (11) and Maisey Mar (6) celebrate after scoring on a bases-loaded triple by Katelyn Sulser to Juneau a 4-2 lead over Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in the decisive game of the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A’Rhiyana Ma’ake (9), Hazel Metzgar (11) and Maisey Mar (6) celebrate after scoring on a bases-loaded triple by Katelyn Sulser to Juneau a 4-2 lead over Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit in the decisive game of the Majors Softball State Tournament on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Gia Walker (17) and Charlotte Nelson (7) try to make a play on a fly ball as Katelyn Sulser retreats to second base during the second inning of a game against Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit Saturday at Marvin Park as part of the Majors Softball State Tournament. Sulser and two other Juneau players would go on to score before the end of the inning, giving Juneau a 7-2 lead. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Gia Walker (17) and Charlotte Nelson (7) try to make a play on a fly ball as Katelyn Sulser retreats to second base during the second inning of a game against Anchorage’s Abbot-O-Rabbit Saturday at Marvin Park as part of the Majors Softball State Tournament. Sulser and two other Juneau players would go on to score before the end of the inning, giving Juneau a 7-2 lead. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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