The East and Lathrop softball teams each kept perfect seasons in tact with two wins apiece Friday, the first day of the large schools softball state tournament at Cartee Fields.
East (24-0) and Lathrop (20-0) are the only teams left without a loss in the double-elimination tournament and will face each other Saturday at 9:30 a.m., for a spot in the large school championship game at 1:30 p.m.
"An undefeated team from the north and an undefeated team from Anchorage, it should be a good ballgame," East coach Paul Schoenborn said. "Hopefully we'll perform. Should be fun."
East, the defending state champion, performed well enough to notch double-digit run totals in each win Friday. The Thunderbirds knocked off Colony 12-1 in the first round and dropped Juneau 10-7 in the second round.
Lathrop's wins were lower scoring. The Malemutes defeated South 5-1 in the first round and took advantage of a West error to escape with a 3-2 win over the Eagles.
Backed by strong pitching from Pauline Tufi, West held a 2-0 lead on Lathrop going into the bottom of the sixth inning of a seven-inning game. Lathrop loaded the bases with two outs and Salena Maxwell at the plate. Maxwell grounded a ball back to Tufi, who tossed it to first base for what looked like an inning-ending play. The problem was, the ball bounced out of the first baseman's glove and down the right-field foul line, allowing all three base runners to score. Lathrop led 3-2.
West went down in order in the top of the seventh. Lathrop pitcher Kacey Duffield struck out the final batter with Tufi waiting on deck. Tufi was 3 for 3 with a single, double and triple.
"The softball gods are on our side, there," Lathrop coach Bill Duffield said. "Pauline's a competitor and we knew she'd be tough to face, but our girls just showed resilience and came through at the end there."
Lathrop came up with two hits, one by Ciara Olalde and one from Payge Scanlon-Boswood. Jamie Bingham scored both runs for West, one coming on a solo home run in the fifth inning.
For West, which beat West Valley 8-0 in the first round, the loss meant a third game had to be played Friday. The Eagles stayed alive with a 6-4 win against Chugiak in a late losers bracket game. Juneau bounced back to beat West Valley 11-2 in the other late losers bracket game and will face West on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
"I'd rather work from this position than from the position of beating (Lathrop), because I know we are gonna have to face them again," said Tufi. "I want to face them when they have all to lose and we don't have anything to lose."
For East and Lathrop, winning comes with the added advantage of only having to play two games Friday and needing just two more wins for a state title. Teams that fell to the losers bracket played three to stay alive Friday and will need four straight wins Saturday to claim a title.
"We need to go home and rest up for Lathrop," said East's Taria Page. "We can't just lay down for them. We have to work hard and bring our best defense."
East's defense was helpless on a few occasions against Juneau, which got home runs from Randi Held, Malin Murray, Gracie Meiners and Savanna Schauwechker.
"They're a good team and we knew had to work hard," Page said. "They step up their game every time they come to state."
The Thunderbirds' offense beat Juneau to the punch, however, extending a 4-2 lead to 9-2 with a five-run rally in the bottom of the fourth inning. Leilani Blair, Gabby Meyerson and Morgan Hill each finished with two hits for East, with Blair and Meyerson each scoring twice.
Ketchikan, Sitka pace small schools
Ketchikan and Sitka each experienced massive victory margins Friday in the small schools softball state tournament at Cartee Fields, each winning twice to advance to Saturday's winners-bracket semifinal.
Ketchikan started its day with a 24-0 first-round blowout of Hutchison and then took out Homer 6-4 in the second round. Sitka stormed by Kodiak 13-5 in the first round before rolling by Eielson 16-1 in the second round of the double-elimination tournament.
Ketchikan and Sitka face off at 9 a.m., the winner moving in to the small schools championship game at 1 p.m., and the loser will face the winner of a losers bracket game between Eielson and Homer.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS