Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Gastineau Channel Little League Majors Division All-Star first baseman Keaton Belcourt has a simple rule for good defensive baseball.
“Just keeping the ball in front of you,” Belcourt said following Juneau’s opening game win over Ketchikan in the Southeast Majors District Tournament at Miller Field on Thursday.
Belcourt had five standout defensive plays in the contest, including two line drives, two ground balls in which he had to beat runners to first base, and the game ending foul ball catch down the first base line.
“If I’m being honest I thought the ball was over my head,” Belcourt said of one line drive. “But you have to try and make the play. Once again, just keep the ball in front of you and you have to have a good mindset when you are playing or else you are just going to fall down. I like that our team is all positive and they don’t give up.”
The GCLL Majors All-Stars found themselves in a disappointing, yet, exciting turn of events on Thursday and did not give up.
Due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Sitka and Juneau’s slight increase, the Sitka Majors 10-12 year olds ,after consulting with the Alaska District 2 Little League President, the Gastineau Channel Little League and City and Borough of Juneau, did not travel to Juneau and withdrew from the tournament.
League officials said the players were disappointed that Sitka could not attend and there has been discussion of Juneau traveling to Sitka if mitigations for the coronavirus improve.
In the meantime bragging rights for the District Tournament and a trip to the state tournament in Anchorage, July 31 - August 5 and possibly beyond will be decided by a best-of-five series between Juneau and Ketchikan.
Game one on Thursday did not disappoint.
Juneau scored early, Ketchikan game back, and Juneau held on for a 9-5 win.
Juneau scored five runs in the top of the first inning as Micah Nelson hit a single to right, Noah Lewis walked, Parker Katasse singled to load the bases and Drew Cadigan-McAdoo singled to score Nelson and Lewis.
Belcourt followed with a triple that scored Katasse and Cadigan-McAdoo and Isaac Kirsch singled to score Belcourt.
Hunter Carte started on the mound for Juneau and struck out the Ketchikan side in the bottom of the first inning.
Carte singled in the second inning, advanced on a Nelson fielder’s choice and scored on a Lewis single. Katasse followed with a single scoring Lewis for 7-0.
Carte got the first Ketchikan hitter in the second to ground out to Belcourt who raced to the first bag. Carte would be relieved by Lewis and move to shortstop after Ketchikan started a two-out rally with Max Davis and Ace Asper reaching on singles and Trevan Secrest walking to load the bases. Charles Kroscavage earned a walk off Lewis to score Davis and Ayden Manabat singled to score Asper.
In the third inning Juneau’s Carte lined to center but was caught to end a threat.
On the defensive side Ketchikan was in scoring position when a line drive was caught by second baseman Katasse who threw to shortstop Carte for a double play. Katasse then caught the third out in a pop up.
Juneau went scoreless in the fourth against Ketchikan pitcher A. Manabat, but Ketchikan put a run across as David Pattison drew a lead off walk, advanced on a single by Jonas Simpson and a sacrifice bunt by Finn Winder and scored on a dropped third strike to A. Manabat, stealing home to cut the lead to 7-3.
Juneau went scoreless in the fifth against new Ketchikan pitcher Wyatt Balluta but Ketchikan plated two runs as Julian Paule stepped into a pitch and deposited it over a row of parked cars past the left field fence to trail 7-4. A. Manabat walked and scored on a Simpson single to trail 7-5.
Juneau got their final two runs on one great running play in the top of the sixth as M. Nelson and Katasse reached on singles and scored in succession on a passed ball.
Juneau’s Lewis continued his second inning of strong pitching to end the game. Belcourt handled a ground ball, Lewis struck out a hitter and Belcourt tracked down a fly ball in foul territory to end the game.
Juneau and Ketchikan play game two tonight at 6 p.m. on Miller Field. Game three is Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday is a skills contest day, and Monday and Tuesday are “if necessary” games at 6 p.m.