The Kenai Little League Senior Girls Softball All-Stars saw their season come to an end Saturday with a 4-2 loss to the Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars in the state championship tournament at Guy and Judy Hayes Hayes Field in Soldotna.
Still, the Kenai squad was proud of its accomplishments this season, hanging tough with a Juneau team that beat them soundly in the state championships a year ago.
"We played them last year down in Juneau they've improved greatly since then," said Juneau coach Dennis Powers.
Juneau won Friday's game 6-1 before coming back Saturday to clinch the state title and a trip to the regional tournament in Oregon to face teams from Oregon and Washington.
"It was fun. I just wish we could've went to the next level," said Kenai's Kelsey Brewer following Saturday's game. "I'm just proud of how good we've gotten. We're done now, but we have a lot of young girls coming up."
Juneau led Saturday's game 1-0 after the first inning, and added two more in the second before Kenai was able to put some runs on the board.
Samantha Calderwood reached on an error with one out in the top of the third inning and stole second. Brewer followed with a walk. Branda Gabriel had a good at-bat, fouling off several pitches before lining out, but Brewer and Calderwood were able to steal second and third while she was at the plate.
Demaris Craig then hit a ground ball to short, but the throw sailed high, allowing both runners to score.
Kenai starting pitcher Jamie Peterson retired the side in order in the bottom of the third, her first 1-2-3 inning of the game.
Andrea Doerflinger relieved Juneau starter Madison Massey in the top of the fourth inning, and Kenai wasn't able to get another baserunner until Gabriel drew a walk in the top of the sixth, but was stranded.
Danielle Little led off the Kenai seventh inning with a single to right field but was caught stealing, and Juneau got two more outs for the championship.
Kenai was solid in the field throughout the game. Peterson pitched through the fourth inning, giving way to Jackie Hall in the fifth after Juneau added a run in the fourth when Sammy Roguska hit a two-out RBI single.
Calderwood made several nice plays at third, snaring line drives and chasing down pop flies, and said defense has been her team's strong suit all season.
"Our defense has always been one of our really strong points," said Kenai coach Jay Griffel. "We practice constantly with defense. Also, our hitting really improved, especially against faster pitchers."
"Defense, and we have very consistent pitching, too," said Calderwood, crediting Hall and Peterson with carrying the load on the mound this year.
Kenai made the state championships after marching through the district tournament, beating the Polar squad from Anchorage and the all-star squad from Soldotna.
"We played good games against them, but definitely I think best games were against Juneau," Calderwood said.
Calderwood also thanked her coaches, Griffel and assistant Barry Brewer, for their work this season.
"Our coaches are a huge asset to our team. We're lucky to have people like them," she said.
In Friday's game, Juneau's Doerflinger had two hits, including a double, and a pair of RBIs as well as picking up the win from the mound with four innings of work. Juneau picked up six runs on four hits and took advantage of four Kenai errors.
In Saturday's game, Alicia Maryott went 2-for-3 with two runs batted in.
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