Co-division MVPs before the game. Harnessers of Soldotna’s bats and vaunted running attack during the game. Center of the celebratory mob after the game.
Wasilla senior pitcher Nolan Monaghan and senior catcher Jeffrey Forster were the epitome of battery as the Warriors defeated the Stars 5-0 on Friday at sun-splashed Coral Seymour Memorial Park for a third straight Southcentral Conference championship.
“They are two special young men,” Wasilla coach Ken Ottinger said after his team finished 13-0 in conference and moved to 22-2 overall by taking the battle of the conference’s top two seeds. “They are best friends and the leading team captains.
“They are the battery and the heart and soul of this team.”
Ottinger, who seized the crown in his first year as head coach, said that Monaghan and Forster sharing MVP status from the Northern Division is rare, but it’s also appropriate.
After all, Southcentral Conference Coach of the Year Robb Quelland decided to totally shut down his normally aggressive running game — not even attempting a stolen base — in deference to Monaghan’s slick move to first and Forster’s 2.04-second pop time to second on steal attempts.
“They are a great battery,” Quelland said of the pair, which will play at Feather River Community College in Quincy, California, next season. “They know what they are doing and know each other’s tendencies.”
Monaghan beat the Stars for the second straight season in the title game. He did not match last year’s no-hitter in the title tilt, going the distance while giving up three hits, walking two and striking out eight.
“This team has been overlooked and overlooked and overlooked,” Monaghan said. “We wanted to come in here with our new coach and three-peat. It means a lot.”
SoHi’s pitching staff held the Warriors to just one hit, but plate discipline carried the day. Stars starter Mathew Daugherty went 3 1-3 innings, giving up that lone hit and five runs — two earned. Daugherty walked seven, hit two and struck out four.
“We made mistakes, and Wasilla capitalized on those mistakes,” Quelland said.
Joey Becher, the Southern Division MVP, pitched a scoreless 2 2-3 innings of relief, walking one and striking out two.
“Baseball takes patience and discipline and our team has both,” Monaghan said. “We’re the most disciplined team in the state.”
Ottinger said he always preaches to the team that taking a walk for the team and not swinging away for personal stats is a must.
“This team is not about stats,” Ottinger said. “That was huge tonight.”
The best example was senior Ryan Perkins, who was hit by a pitch to force in a run, walked and scored, and was hit by another pitch in four productive but painful plate appearances.
With his squad holding a 5-0 lead after the fourth, Monaghan put on an impressive finishing kick, collecting five of his eight punch-outs in the final three innings.
“I like to keep something in the tank for the late innings and surprise them,” he said.
With six sophomores in the core starting group of 11, Wasilla will be back next year looking to extend its conference reign. But the team also is looking to prove something at state, which starts Thursday in Anchorage.
“I can’t wait,” Monaghan said. “It will be hard to sleep every night until state.”
Kenai 5, Homer 4
The Kardinals, No. 3 from the South, came back late to end the season of Homer, No. 2 from the South, at Seymour Park in the second-place quarterfinals.
Kenai trailed 4-3 in the top of the seventh and was down to its last out when Levi Mese was hit by a pitch. Paul Steffensen singled, and when Homer tried to get Mese at third, Steffensen moved up to second.
Jakeb O’Brien then singled to score two and give Kenai the lead.
“He was so nervous because that would have been the final out, but he came through,” Kenai coach John Kennedy said.
Connor Jones went the distance for Kenai on the mound, giving up three earned runs and five hits while walking five and striking out one. Steffensen scored three runs while Jones added a pair of RBIs. Kennedy also said Knox Amend did a great job of filling in at third base.
For Homer, Garrett Butcher went the distance on the mound. At the plate, he had a double, triple and run scored. Michael Swoboda added a double and two RBIs, while Kyle Johnson reached base three times and scored a run.
Colony 15, Kodiak 2, 5 inn.
The Knights, the No. 2 seed from the north, jumped all over the Bears, No. 4 from the south, at Kenai Little League fields in the second-place quarterfinals.
For Colony, Zachary Satterly was 4 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, Cole Doss was 2 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs, Trenten Walters was 2 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs, Joseph Ryan was 2 for 4 with two runs, Kolten Ketchum had two hits and Cooper McLaughlin scored three runs.
For Kodiak, Loui Roucheleu had two hits.
Kenai 18, Houston 7
The Kardinals, No. 3 from the South, ended the season of Houston, No. 4 from the north, at Seymour Park and advanced to the second-place quarterfinals.
Paul Steffensen pitched all seven innings for Kenai.
“Houston has a young team, and Paul was able to keep them off-balance,” Kenai coach John Kennedy said. “We gave up a lot of runs, but not because of anything Paul did.”
Houston coach Scott Ruta said pitcher Reed Graham, who lasted for 2 1-3 innings, also did not get support from the defense. Kolby Taylor finished up the rest of the game.
Houston led 5-2 after the top of the second, but Kenai scored eight runs in the bottom half of the inning to take control of the game.
Jakeb O’Brien was 4 for 5 with three runs and two RBIs, Gavin Petterson was 3 for 4 with three runs, Connor Jones was 2 for 5 with two RBIs, Luke Mese was 2 for 4 with two runs, and Steffensen scored twice.
For Houston, Kolby Taylor was 1 for 4 with two runs and Kade Taylor was 3 for 3 with two runs a double.
Ruta said the program made progress this year, and next year will have seven seniors after losing just one senior this season. Kendell Ruta, who hit .640 last season, also will return after missing this season with an ankle injury.
Kodiak 9, Palmer 8, 8 inn.
For the second straight day, the Moose, No. 3 from the north, lost in extra innings at Kenai Little League fields.