Nunaka advances to softball semifinals

Nunaka Valley's march through pool play in the Little League Junior Softball World Series hit a rough spot Thursday -- Maunabo, Puerto Rico, overcame a five-run deficit to earn a 9-5 win -- but the Alaskans still advanced to Friday's semifinals on a tie-breaker.

Puerto Rico's win Thursday left it tied with Nunaka Valley and West Haven, Conn., atop Pool B -- all three teams sported 3-1 records. The teams remained tied after the first tie-breaker -- head-to-head results among the three -- with identical 1-1 records.

The second tie-breaker -- runs allowed divided by defensive innings played -- went to Puerto Rico, making it the No. 1 semifinal seed from Pool B. The tie-breaking formula then reverted back to head-to-head competition between Nunaka and Connecticut, and Nunaka gained the No. 2 semifinal seed from Pool B by virtue of its 3-1 win over Connecticut on Tuesday.

Nunaka Valley on Friday at 4 p.m. ADT plays host Kirkland, Wash. (3-0) in a semifinal.

The other semifinal, at 3:45 p.m. ADT, pits Puerto Rico against the Canada representative from Victoria.

The semifinal winners play in a 1 p.m. ADT championship game Saturday that will be televised live on ESPN2 (GCI Cable Channel 35).

Thursday's game began well for Nunaka Valley, which raced to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings.

Leadoff hitter Taria Page opened the bottom of the first inning with a home run, her fourth in the last three games. All the other players in the nine-team tournament have combined for three home runs.

Nunaka Valley also received an RBI single from Nanea Tali in the first inning, then scored three times in the second, when Tali delivered a sacrifice fly, and Felila Manu and Jacynne Augafa furnished RBI singles.

But Puerto Rico exploded for six runs in the top of the third inning on four hits, two walks and an error, to seize a 6-5 lead. Puerto Rico plated three runs in the fifth on four hits and two passed balls.

Puerto Rico reliever Nachely Rivera, who entered the game in the bottom of the second, didn't permit Nunaka Valley a sniff the rest of the way. She allowed just one hit -- a single by Page -- in 51/3 innings to halt Nunaka's nine-game winning streak, which dated back to the Alaska state tournament.

Nunaka manager Richard Hill said he is counting on his club to rebound emotionally in the semifinals.

"They'll be fine with wiping it away,'' he said. "They know who they are and they know they are good.

"They'll brush themselves off. They're going to come back stronger and more determined.''

In Nunaka's semifinal, both teams have their top two pitchers available.

Nunaka's Lauren Syrup (3.75 earned-run average in 16 innings) has started every World Series game. Hannah Peterson (2.67 in 9 innings) has pitched in three of four games.

Kirkland has used two pitchers in the tournament. Tori Bivens owns a 1.80 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10 innings, and Lisa Nelson has generated a 2.18 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. Those two are also tied for the team lead in tournament batting average at .455.

Page, meanwhile, leads the tournament in hits (9), runs (8), homers (4) and RBIs (10), and is second in batting average (.643).

Anchorage Daily News