The ball may be bigger, the pitches may come underhand and the mound may be flat, but the best way to win a fast-pitch softball game is identical to the best way to win a baseball game -- pitching and defense.
The Abbott-O-Rabbit All-Stars rode those two key ingredients to an 11-1 victory over the Kenai All-Stars Saturday in the championship game of Alaska District 1 Senior Softball Tournament at the Soldotna Little League Fields.
The game, which was for those 14 to 16 years old, was halted with one out in the top of the sixth inning when AOR's Katie Bookey scored to invoke the 10-run rule.
Kenai had trouble catching up to the velocity of AOR pitcher Abby Augdahl all day. Augdahl pitched all six innings, giving up just one hit while walking two and striking out 14.
She got stronger as the game went on, striking out the final eight hitters she faced.
"Abby's a really good pitcher for Service during the high school season and she did a great job pitching today," AOR manager Dan Knecht said. "It's like in baseball. Good pitching can control the other team."
Augdahl's control of Kenai allowed AOR to continue its recent dominance of the District 1 tournament. AOR's coaches said they have won the tournament each year dating back to at least 1994.
The team will play Juneau in a best two-of-three series in Soldotna beginning July 23. The winner of that will move on to Divisionals in Medford, Ore., where AOR finished second last year.
AOR advanced to Saturday's championship game by virtue of its 6-0 record in pool play during the week. Kenai came into the game at 5-1, with its one loss coming to AOR by a score of 8-2 on July 8.
Kenai and starting pitcher Robyne Johnson were doing a great job of sticking with AOR until the bottom of the fourth inning.
AOR got to Johnson for two unearned runs in the first inning, but Johnson was able to shut AOR out in the second and third.
Meanwhile, center fielder Caleb Schooley brought Kenai to within one in the top of the fourth when he hit a triple down the right field line. AOR bobbled the relay throw in from right, allowing Schooley to score.
However, AOR scored seven runs on five hits and three errors in the bottom of the fourth to give Augdahl all the cushion she would need.
"Typically, what happens in a close game like that is somebody's going to crack," said Kenai manager Joe Fey. "It's tough to come back when you're facing pitching like that."
With its second-place finish, Kenai continued to be near the top of the District 1 pecking order. Kenai was third in 1997 and fourth the past two years.
Fey credited assistants Craig Lofstedt and Grant McClure and a strong work ethic for the success of this year's team.
Kenai, which won the tournament's sportsmanship award, had two weeks to prepare for the tournament and practiced 10 or 11 times for three hours a practice session.
Although Johnson couldn't hold AOR down Saturday, Fey said she had a great tournament.
"I guess today we needed a little more defense," Fey said.
Schooley had six out-of-the-park home runs to lead the tournament, while Fey also said Ashley Goff was a standout in the tournament.
Goff and Ashley Jones had key back-to-back doubles Tuesday when Kenai notched a big victory over Dimond-West.
"We had a tough schedule, playing games six straight days, but we made it to the championship game," Fey said. "It was a great tournament."
Soldotna also made a good showing in the tournament, advancing to Saturday's third-place game against Dimond-West. Soldotna lost the game 2-0.
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