Nunaka win not enough to stay alive

SOFTBALL: Alaskans go out winners after beating Curacao team.

August 18, 2011 

Things went Nunaka Valley's way Thursday at the Junior Softball World Series. Until they didn't.

The girls from Nunaka Valley needed two wins to have a shot at advancing to today's semifinals in the 10-team tournament for girls ages 13-14 in Kirkland, Wash. They needed to beat their opponent from Latin America, and they needed the Netherlands to beat Bridge City, Texas.

The Alaskans took care of business on the field, riding a combined one-hitter by Sydney Smith and Heather Breslin to a 2-0 victory over Willemstad, Curacao, the champions from Latin America.

But the Netherlands didn't come through against Bridge City, leaving Alaska out of the semifinal picture with a 2-2 pool-play record. Advancing to the semifinals were Bridge City and Greensburg, Pa., each with 3-1 records.

Thursday's game marked a brilliant pitching effort by Smith and Breslin, who faced the minimum of 21 batters and combined for five strikeouts.

Smith retired 12 straight before giving way to Breslin after four innings. Breslin gave up Willemstad's lone hit -- a one-out single in the fifth -- but the runner was caught stealing, allowing Nunaka Valley to enjoy a 1-2-3 inning.

The Alaskans got the only run they needed in the second inning. Taria Page led off with a single, took second on a passed ball and scored from there on an error.

They tacked on another run in the fourth on a two-out single by Julie Merritt that drove in Smith. Nunaka Valley had three of its five hits that inning, with Smith and Breslin both rapping singles.

Page was 1 for 2 to lift her tournament batting average to .600, ranking her second among all players after pool play.

Today's semifinals will be an All-American affair. Bridge City and Greensburg advanced from Nunaka Valley's pool, while teams from Tampa, Fla., and Lexington, Ky., advanced from the other pool.

Greensburg, which had a bye Thursday, secured a semifinal spot Wednesday by finishing pool play with a 3-1 record, including an 8-4 win over Alaska on Tuesday.

A loss Thursday by Bridge City -- which Alaska beat 5-3 Monday -- would have left three teams with 2-2 records -- Alaska, Texas and the Netherlands -- and required a tiebreaker to decide the semifinalist. With the loss to Bridge City, the Netherlands finished 1-3, with its only win Wednesday's 2-1 squeaker over Nunaka Valley.

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