The Homer softball team found a way to reign in the rain.
The top-seeded Mariners completed a 3-0 run through the Northern Lights Conference tournament in Kodiak with an 8-3 victory over the No. 3 Bears on Friday night. There have been two NLC tourneys and Homer has won both.
The tournament featured a steady rain throughout.
“It was miserable – just miserable,” Homer coach Bill Bell said after his squad clinched a 17th state berth in 18 years. Kodiak also is going to state as the runner-up.
The Mariners started Saturday by knocking Kodiak off 23-15 in five innings in the semifinals. After the Bears worked their way into the final by defeating Soldotna 17-3 in four innings to earn a state berth, Homer toppled Kodiak again, this time 8-3 in seven innings.
Annalyn Brown, who was named MVP of the conference, starred on the mound in the championship game. She went all seven innings, giving up three runs — two earned — on nine hits while walking two and striking out six.
Brown pitched every inning of every game for Homer in the tournament.
“She was dynamite on the mound,” Bell said. “She pitched her heart out the whole tournament.”
Also earning first-team all-conference for Homer were Brianna Hetrick, Grace Godfrey and Kaitlyn Johnson.
Bell said Brown came into the championship game a little wet and cold from the earlier game, but once she was reminded to wipe off the ball, ask for a new ball periodically and put on a jacket, she was able to take control of the game.
Hetrick led Homer at the plate by going 2 for 4 with two runs, while Godfrey also scored a pair of runs for the Mariners.
“I like how we did in the adverse conditions,” Bell said. “They didn’t whine, they just supported each other.
“The last game was not a blowout. It was more of a pitchers’ duel. They had to dig deep and keep going.”
The 23-15 semifinal was most definitely not a pitchers’ dual. Brown pitched five innings and gave up 15 runs — 11 earned — on 12 hits, but the bats, including her own, were there for her.
The top three in the order all had big games, with Brown going 3 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, Haylee Owen going 3 for 3 with four runs and two RBIs, and Godfrey finishing 3 for 3 with two runs and four RBIs.
Also for Homer, Johnson was 2 for 4 with five RBIs, Hetrick was 2 for 2 with two RBIs, Sam Moonin had three runs, Ksenia Kuzmin had three runs, Hannah Hatfield had two runs and Aspen Walli had two runs.
Bell also said Homer had solid defense throughout the tournament, especially from Owen at first base, Johnson at shortstop and Godfrey in the outfield.
He said Homer has some nice momentum heading into state.
“We’re happy to be going in with Kodiak,” he said. “It’s been a couple years since we’ve done that. I won’t miss the threat of being knocked out by Soldotna, like we have the last two years.”
Kodiak 17, Soldotna 3, 4 innings
The No. 3 seed Bears pulled away from the No. 2 Stars to earn the second state berth Friday. SoHi saw its season come up just short of a third straight state berth.
Madilyn Barkman got the start for Soldotna and had the Stars up 2-1 until the third inning. Knoebel said Barkman did a great job, especially considering her limited varsity experience.
“In the third inning, it rained and she struggled with control from the mound,” Knoebel said. “At that point, I think everybody was quite saturated with the rain from all the games.”
Knoebel said the thing about the rain was that the Stars simply never play in showers that strong because that would mean the game is rained out.
“Kodiak is used to rain,” Knoebel said. “They see it every day.”
Taralynn Frates was 2 for 2 with a triple and a run in her last game. The other senior the Stars lose is Emily Jackson, who was out injured.
Bailey Berger also had a double in the game.
“With all the new players we had this year, I’m quite impressed with how the kids did,” Knoebel said. “We’ve got 17 kids coming back next year and they’re already hungry.”
Ashley McDonald and Casey Earll were on first-team all-conference for the Stars, while Casey Card and Berger were second team and Alana Scott made the Good Sport Team.
Soldotna 17, Kenai 7, 5 innings
In the first game of the day, the Stars kept their season alive and ended the season of the No. 4 Kardinals.
SoHi coach Kelli Knoebel said Taralynn Frates pitched the whole game and did an excellent job, striking out four.
At the plate, Bailey Berger was 3 for 4, Casey Earll was 3 for 4 with a double, Casey Card was 4 for 4, and Bailey Smith had a double and two RBIs.
“It was a good game to get started in the morning,” Knoebel said. “We got the win and had two hours between games to get back to church and dry off.”
Kenai coach John Manley said Savannah Jones pitched well but the Kardinals struggled at the plate.
“It was raining pretty bad and it affected both teams a little bit,” Manley said. “I think we had more trouble with it than SoHi.”
For Kenai, Lexy Carrasco was 2 for 4 with two runs, Kaylee Lauritsen had two walks, Jones drew three walks and scored a run, Zaharah Wilshusen scored a run, and Kiera Duby had a single that scored two.
Jones graduated, as did Carrasco and Alyssa Stanton, who made first-team all-conference.
“We had a lot of new people and a lot of younger players that are playing better,” Manley said. “We didn’t get the wins on paper, but we played better and we have a lot coming back next year.”
MVP- Annalyn Brown- Homer
Bri Hetrick- Homer
Kaitlyn Johnson- Homer
Grace Godfrey- Homer
Ashley McDonald- SOHI
Casey Earll- SOHI
Alyssa Stanton- Kenai
Hannah Glover- Kodiak
Cameron Bolen- Kodiak