Both Homer softball coach Bill Bell and Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel were not happy with the way their teams hit Monday in a Northern Lights Conference clash at the Soldotna Little League fields.
But the Mariners did everything else well, and that was enough to secure an 18-3 win in six innings and finish regular season conference play with an 8-0 record. The Stars sit at 5-2 in the NLC headed into a home game with Kenai Central on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Homer (11-4 overall) had five hits in the game to Soldotna’s six, but was able to take control of the game with pitching, defense and aggressive baserunning.
Annalynn Brown went all six innings for the Mariners, walking just one and striking out seven. Bell said Brown is clearly the team’s No. 1 pitcher right now.
She stayed cool in tough situations, stranding three runners after they had reached scoring position with less than two outs.
“We really work on that — think about the next pitch,” Bell said. “Have the memory of a goldfish.”
Knoebel gave credit to Brown for pitching a good game. But she was still disappointed her team struck out looking four times.
“We didn’t hit the ball and score runs the way we normally do,” Knoebel said after falling to 5-3 overall.
Defense also let the Stars down. Starter Danielle Hills battled through a blister and lasted 5 1-3 innings, giving up four hits while walking 11 and striking out two. But Hills had to battle a lot of extra runners, as the Stars made six errors and just two of Hills’ runs were earned. Leah McCabe got the final two outs for SoHi, giving up three runs on a hit.
Knoebel said, despite the blister, Hills should be ready to go Wednesday against Kenai.
Soldotna stuck with Homer for a while, trailing 4-2 after four innings. But Homer got four in the fifth and 10 in the sixth.
“We were sloppy on defense,” Knoebel said. “We can’t stop talking on defense. This game showed that.
“(Homer) played a great game — a clean game.”
Bell was happy his team found a way to score runs without a ton of hits and with star leadoff hitter Mary Hana Bowe going 1 for 5 with three runs and three RBIs.
“I would have liked to hit a bit better,” Bell said. “I was hoping Mary Hana would hit as strong as she normally does.
“But we put the ball in play and were aggressive on the bases, and I’m happy with that.”
The Homer coach was happy with his defense, as the Mariners made just one error and gave up just one unearned run. Bell said catcher Briana Hetrick was a vital part of that defensive effort.
Elsie Smith had a double, two RBIs and two runs for Homer, while Malina Fellows was 2 for 2 with two runs and three RBIs, Hetrick had three runs, Metz had two runs, Brown had two runs and Rylee Doughty was 1 for 2 with two runs and two RBIs.
For Soldotna, Jazi Larrow was 1 for 2 with two runs, Hills had a double and an RBI, and Carlin Meyer had a run.