The Homer Mariners plated eight runs in the second inning of a Northern Lights Conference game with Soldotna and cruised from there on the arm of junior Annalynn Brown to win 12-2 in five innings Tuesday night in Soldotna.
Homer (2-1 in conference, 12-6 overall) is fresh off a weekend tournament title at the Rally in the Valley at Redington High, and with Tuesday’s win over SoHi (2-2 conference, 3-3 overall) pushed its win streak to seven in a row.
After a quick first inning, Homer brought 13 batters to the plate in the top of the second, using a patient approach to keep the train moving on SoHi starter Casey Earll. The Mariners got five walks, three hits and two hit-by-pitches off a struggling Earll to take a daunting 8-0 lead.
From there, it was all about Annalyn Brown’s complete game gem. Brown was working toward a shutout before giving up two runs in the fifth, and credited the defense behind her for giving her confidence.
“It wasn’t just me, I had a great defense behind me,” Brown said. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without some of the great plays that happened today.”
Brown finished the day with an efficient 44 strikes on 65 pitches, striking out three and walking only one while scattering five hits.
“Annalyn is just a rock,” said Homer coach Bill Bell. “She doesn’t seem to have any emotions, things don’t flap her very much. Mechanically, she’s been having a few issues throughout the season but she was doing OK with those today, and she’s just somebody that goes next pitch.”
Overall the Homer defense retired 11 Stars batters on either fly-outs or ground-outs, with crisp fielding being the theme of the day.
“I would not be the pitcher I am without my teammates behind me,” Brown said.
Being familiar with Soldotna’s lineup also helped. Brown said she relied primarily on her fastball to get quick outs, and just put her heater on the weak spots of each SoHi hitter.
“We’ve played this team so much, I’ve learned these batters,” Brown said. “I know what they like to hit and what they don’t like to hit.”
Soldotna head coach Kelli Knoebel said the big second inning by Homer made life tough for the Stars in their attempts to dig out of the big hole.
“I thought we had a good approach but got impatient at times,” Knoebel said. “Unfortunately, Casey struggled again with her consistency on the mound.
“Hats off to Homer. Annalynn pitched very well.”
Mariners freshman Zoe Adkins went 3 for 4 with two RBIs to lead the Homer offense, while leadoff hitter Grace Godfrey was 1 for 2 with two RBIs, two runs and two walks.
Casey Card and Casey Earll each went 2 for 3 with an RBI each to lead Soldotna’s offense.
Earll ended the day with 12 runs on nine hits and nine walks, while whiffing three, and needed 124 pitches to get through it. Knoebel said it took Earll 52 pitches to get through the second inning alone.
The Mariners beat the Stars 13-4 on April 30, but didn’t exactly pick up where they left off. Only one Homer batter reached base in the first inning, but once the second inning arrived, things started happening.
Earll issued walks to the first two Homer batters before a single by Adkins loaded the bases. Hannah Hatfield grounded out to bring in the game’s first run, then was followed by a two-run double from Kaylin Anderson to put Homer up 3-0.
Grace Godfrey and Brown both drew walks to load the bases again, and Brianna Hetrick was hit by Earll to force in a run. After two more runs came home on a dropped third strike and a hit-by-pitch, Adkins came up for a second time and doubled in two more runs.
“I think they were just a little flat from the drive up here,” Bell said. “It was just taking us a little long to gear up and get going, but then they do.”
Hatfield struck out to end the inning, but SoHi was left staring at a big deficit.