The Grace Christian baseball team defeated Kenai Central 21-7 on Friday in Southcentral Conference action at the Kenai Little League fields.
Kenai returned Saturday to win its first game of the season, a 23-15 slugfest over Redington, putting the Kardinals’ season record at 1-6 in conference and 1-7 overall.
Grace Christian moved to 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the league after Friday’s victory.
“I really liked the way Kenai hit the ball,” Grace head coach Ted McGovern said. “The game slipped away at the end, but they really did well.”
The Grizzlies notched 10 runs in the seventh inning to turn a competitive game into a rout.
“Until the seventh inning, we were right in it,” Kenai head coach Luke Oliver said. “Each game, it seems, we get another inning into it as far as being competitive. I hope that continues with regions right around the corner.”
Initially, it looked like the Kardinals would not even make it a competitive game for a half inning as Grace took a 6-0 lead in the top of the first against starter Parker Mattox.
Cameron Withrow and Jacob Hulst both hit two-run bombs for the Grizzlies, the first of the year for both. Grace now has four home runs this season. Withrow finished 5 for 5 with four runs, three doubles and five RBIs, while Hulst was 3 for 5 with five RBIs and two runs.
“What I liked is when we had some adversity, we came right back,” Oliver said.
Caleb Smith got two outs without allowing a run, then Simon Grenier came in and slowed down Grace’s lineup until the Grizzlies got rolling in the seventh. Grenier pitched 4 2-3 innings and was charged with eight runs.
“He’s pitched very well,” Oliver said of Grenier. “I’m very impressed with him as a freshman in his first year.”
Kenai was able to come back and make it 6-4 after two innings and even after the sixth inning it was 11-6. Oliver just said Grace is well coached and very capable with the bats. That allowed them to run away in the seventh. Sam Berry allowed five runs and Knox Amend gave up two runs.
“I feel like we are hitting well as a team,” McGovern said. “The boys worked hard to get to this point and I hope it continues.”
McGovern also was happy with his pitching. Withrow went the first three innings and yielded four runs, while Parker Hovila went the next three and gave up two runs. Nick Pope pitched the last inning and yielded a run.
The Grace coach also said the starting catcher was injured, and Nelson Korshin and Ky Gibbs filled in and did a great job.
Also for the Grizzlies offense, Korshin scored three runs, Pope had a double and two runs, Josh McGovern had two runs, Steven Brown was 2 for 4, Brett Hoffman scored three runs, Hovila had a double and three runs, and Brandon Plaster had three RBIs.
For Kenai, Harold Ochea was 3 for 4 with three RBIs, Smith had a double and three runs, Amend had two RBIs and Ben Spinka was 1 for 3 with a run.
Oliver also said the Kardinals made the plays they were supposed to make on defense, but now they need to make the plays that are hard to make. With one out and a runner on second in the fifth, Kenai was threatening to shrink a 9-5 lead when Spinka lined out to a diving Pope at shortstop. Pope doubled the runner off of second.
“That was a big play,” Oliver said. “That’s an example of the plays that are hard to make.”
Kenai 23, Redington 15
The Kardinals won their first game of 2019 Saturday with an explosion of offense.
“Hopefully this game is a step in the right direction,” said Kenai head coach Luke Oliver. “I wanted to see the guys keep that intensity through the game.”
Redington led 6-4 after two innings of action, but Kenai rallied to score five runs in the third to take a 9-6 lead, then added seven more in the fourth inning to go up 16-6.
Oliver said the run rule would have been in effect to end the game early, but Redington came back with six runs in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 16-12, eliminating that possibility.
The Huskies closed the gap to 16-14 after five frames, but Kenai got two back in the sixth, then tacked on five more runs in the top of the seventh to give the Kards enough of a cushion to close out the victory.
“It was one of those games we were talking about … we found out what it’s like to be in the lead and on top for a while,” Oliver said. “We also got to know what it’s like to let off the gas pedal a little, but our guys responded every time.
“I’m really happy with our resiliency and ability.”
Harold Ochea highlighted the day on offense by hitting 4 for 4, including two doubles and a triple for Kenai.
Kenai starter Parker Mattox lasted 4 1-3 innings before Caleb Smith finished the final 2 2-3 frames in relief. Oliver said both pitchers showed welcoming signs of improvement, including a late jam that Smith got out of with a crucial strikeout of one of Redington’s top hitters.
“They pitched well, kept battling, they threw strikes and got ahead of batters early,” Oliver said.
Kodiak 5, Soldotna 4
The Bears walked off in the bottom of the seventh inning on the Stars in Southcentral Conference action Friday. The game was tied at 1 after one. SoHi led 4-1 after three innings but Kodiak tied it in the bottom of the fourth before winning it in the seventh.
SoHi fell to 1-4 in the league and 2-10 overall.
Errors once again bit the Stars. SoHi had eight miscues. Jeremy Kupferschmid went the distance and gave up five runs, but just one was earned. Kupferschmid allowed four hits while walking five and striking out three.
“He deserved to win,” Soldotna head coach Robb Quelland said of Kupferschmid. “He gave up one earned run over seven innings. The walks got to him a bit, but the defense definitely didn’t support him. It was a gutsy performance.”
Lars Hanson started for Kodiak and gave up four runs — three earned — on two hits while walking two and striking out two.
Jace Crall and Chase Good shut Soldotna out the rest of the way. Crall worked an inning, while Good worked 3 2-3 innings.
Chris Jaime was 2 for 4 for the Stars, while Kupferschmid, David Michael and Davey Belger also had hits. Brennen Werner added a pair of RBIs for the Stars.
Anders Hocum was 2 for 2 with two runs for Soldotna.
The news was not all bad for SoHi’s defense. The Stars turned a triple play to get out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam. Shortstop David Michael got the out at second, threw to Tanner Ussing for the out at first, then Ussing threw to Jacob Boze to cut down the runner trying to score.
Quelland said it was the first time he can remember a high school team turning a triple play.
Kodiak 9, Soldotna 6
The host Bears topped the Stars in nonconference action Saturday to drop Soldotna to 2-11 overall.
“Give Kodiak all the credit,” Quelland said. “They’re solid one through nine and they show what a solid high school team looks like. They’re athletic on the field and they put the ball in play and good things happen.”
SoHi led 5-1 after three innings behind a three-run home run by Boze into the wind. But Kodiak stormed back with three runs in the fourth, a run in the fifth and four runs in the sixth.
Again, the defense did not support the pitcher, committing five errors. Tanner Ussing gave up four runs — one earned — while Atticus Gibson gave up an unearned run and Josh Pieh gave up four unearned runs.
“We’re just having one bad inning,” Quelland said. “I truly believe we’re going to get past that.”
In the second game, Kupferschmid, Michael, Jaime, Trenton Steadman and Jacob Belger added hits to Boze’s monster shot.
Colony 6, Homer 0
The Mariners finished a weekend homestand against the Mat-Su Valley teams with a shutout loss to the Knights.
The losses dropped the Mariners to 1-4 in conference and 5-6 overall.
Zach Satterly tossed the complete game shutout for Colony, and received offensive support with two runs in the second inning, one in the third and three in the fourth to go up 5-0.
Homer head coach Rich Sonnen said Homer’s biggest contributions from the plate came from Harrison Metz, Austin Ceccarelli and Mose Hayes. Hayes was able to record a double but the Mariners couldn’t bring him home.
“We couldn’t string anything together to generate any runs,” Sonnen acknowledged.
Metz pitched four innings for Homer, giving up six runs on eight hits with one strikeout, and Seth Adkins finished off the last two frames, scattering just three hits in scoreless relief.
Wasilla 15, Homer 5
Homer lost Friday to Wasilla in six innings in what Sonnen called a tough outing.
“We just could not buy a strike,” Sonnen said. “We threw it right down the middle … after the second inning I decided not to burn those guys up, so I pulled them.”
Hayes could only record one out after starting the game before being pulled with four runs on two hits, and Metz came in for the last two outs, but not before giving up three runs on one hit.
Adkins pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings in relief with two hits, and Ceccarelli went the final 3 2/3 frames.
The biggest blast came from Homer’s Koda Wood, who notched a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 7-3 at the time.
Homer got two more runs in the fifth, but the Warriors proved to be too much to handle.