The host Homer softball team won the Northern Lights Conference tournament late Saturday night with a 12-4 victory over Soldotna.
The Mariners took the long route to the title.
Saturday afternoon, Homer lost to Soldotna in the semifinals 16-5 in six innings, throwing Homer into the playback bracket and giving Soldotna a ticket to state. Homer topped Kodiak to reach the title game against Soldotna and lock up a state berth, then pulled out a 17-16 victory over the Stars.
But since the tournament is double elimination, the Mariners had to beat the Stars one more time to secure the title.
Soldotna 16, Homer 5, 6 innings
The No. 2 seed Stars sprung a Saturday upset on No. 1 seed Homer, which had not lost a conference game all season. The win put SoHi in the final, clinched a state berth for the Stars and pushed the Mariners into the playback bracket.
Danielle Hills went all six innings for the Stars.
“She pitched very well and we played solid defense behind her,” SoHi coach Kelli Knoebel said. “She rocked and rolled and did her rhythm and rhyme.”
The coach said Carlin Meyer was great behind the plate and also went 4 for 5 with four RBIs and a triple.
Also for SoHi, Darcy Blume was 4 for 4 with four RBIs, Jazi Larrow was 3 for 6, Hills was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Casey Earll was 2 for 2 with three walks. Every player for the Stars had a hit.
Kodiak 24, Kenai 13, 4 innings
The No. 3 seed Bears ended the No. 4 seed Kardinals season Saturday.
Kenai scored 11 runs in the first inning when Kodiak’s pitcher came out wild, but the Bears got 17 runs in their half of the first when Cierra King had control problems.
“You just never know in this game, do you?” Kenai coach John Manley said.
After that, both pitchers settled down but Kodiak was able to hold its early advantage.
Patricia Catacutan had a hit, two walks and two runs for the Kards, while King had a double, single, two walks and three runs, and Alyssa Stanton had two hits, a walk and two runs.
Manley said his team loses a lot to graduation, but he is optimistic about a rebuilding project next season led by Savannah Jones, Kiera Duby, Treava Schmitter-Schrier, Alyssa Stanton and Sam Kompkoff, who missed this season due to injury.
Soldotna 19, Kodiak 18
The Stars, the No. 2 seed, scored seven runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday to shock the Bears, the No. 3 seed in the first game of the tournament for both teams.
“We had to dig deep,” Knoebel said. “The players got together, talked about it and believed in themselves.”
Soldotna was the home team, but Knoebel said Hills started off the game a little wild and Kodiak, which was swept by Soldotna in the regular season, was up 8-0 before the Stars came to bat in the bottom of the first inning.
“Hats off to Kodiak, they played a great game,” Knoebel said. “We were down most of the game. Kodiak has definitely improved.”
Hills came back to have some solid moments, including striking out the side in the fifth inning en route to nine whiffs for the game.
The Stars went into the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 18-12. Bailey Berger led off with a single, but the next two batters for Soldotna were retired before the rally started.
Tara Lynn Frates made one of the outs in the seventh inning, but she also was the one that came back to rope a single to score the winning run in Taylor Earll.
“Softball is a roller coaster ride,” Knoebel said. “We were able to turn it around. It’s great to see the fight in the kids. It’s one of those emotional wins.”
Knoebel said Darcy Blume was 2 for 3 but even more valuable due to her upbeat attitude. Berger was 5 for 6 with four RBIs, while Larrow was 3 for 3 with three walks. Ashley McDonald also was 2 for 3.
Knoebel said Meyer had a great game behind the plate, and also had a clutch triple in the sixth inning that allowed her to eventually score.
Homer 24, Kenai 2, 3 inn.
The Mariners, the tournament’s top seed, cruised past the Kardinals, the No. 4 seed, in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“Homer’s a good team,” Kenai coach John Manley said. “They haven’t lost a game in the league.”
Annalynn Brown pitched three innings for the Mariners, giving up four hits and two runs — both unearned. She struck out three and walked two.
Jones took the loss for Kenai, giving up eight hits and 24 runs — eight earned — in two innings. Jones struck out one and walked 13.
On offense for Homer, Mary Hana Bowe was 2 for 3 with four runs and two RBIs, Elsie Smith was 3 for 3 with three runs and six RBIs, Malina Fellows was 2 for 3 with two runs and three RBIs, Kaitlyn Johnson was 1 for 3 with three runs and two RBIs, Annali Metz had three runs and Brown had four RBIs.
For Kenai, Cierra King led the way by going 2 for 2 with a run and an RBI. Jones and Jenna Helminski added hits for the Kardinals, while Patricia Catacutan came back from a strikeout to post a triple in her next turn at bat.
Kenai 32, Houston 20, 4 inn.
The Kardinals, who were the home team, fell behind 9-0 after the top of the first only to come back and win the game Friday in the opener for both teams.
Manley said King pitched the whole game and had too many walks early, but came back to post six strikeouts. With King pitching better, a steady Kenai offense was able to come back and win the game.
On offense, Catacutan had two hits, two walks and scored three times, King had three hits and two walks and scored four times, Alyssa Stanton got on every time with three hits and two walks and scored five times, Emily Kociczkowski had four hits, one walk, four runs and two RBIs on a double, and Jones had a double, two walks and three runs.