The host Kenai Central baseball team came back from a six-run deficit to topple Soldotna 9-8 in Southcentral Conference play Wednesday.
The Kardinals move to 2-6 in the league and overall, while Soldotna falls to 5-2 in the conference and 6-7 overall.
With the score tied in the bottom of the seventh inning, Xavier Amend led off with a walk. Talon Whicker came in to run for Amend.
Kenai eventually had runners on second and third with nobody out. Coach Luke Oliver wanted Simon Grenier to lift the ball into the outfield to give the speedy Whicker a chance to score. Grenier executed by flying out to center for the victory.
Oliver said his team has been putting together some good games lately, so he said the Kards didn’t play to expectations in falling behind 6-0 after the third inning.
“The big thing we’ve been preaching all season is, ‘Respond. Respond. Respond. Respond,’” Oliver said. “Don’t let one thing build into another and snowball. So they did a great job tonight.”
The Kardinals put together four runs in the bottom of the fourth to cut the gap to 6-4, but SoHi extended the lead to 8-4 in the top of the sixth. Kenai fought back with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Oliver said Jackson DuPerron had a clutch double in the inning.
“I take my hat off to Kenai,” Soldotna coach Robb Quelland said. “They outplayed us. Coach Oliver has a good set of young players over there. They never quit and stopped playing hard.”
Atticus Gibson pitched the first three innings for Soldotna, giving up two hits and no runs while striking out four and walking one. But after that, SoHi pitchers Jacob Belger, Andrew Pieh, Daltyn Deborski and Riley Johnson had trouble holding down Kenai.
“Atticus Gibson was dominant on the mound again,” Quelland said. “We took him out due to pitch count with an eye on other games, and the other pitchers just didn’t quite do their jobs.”
Soldotna got to Kenai starter Wes Katzenberger for six runs — five earned — in 2 2-3 innings, but Grenier gave up two runs in three innings and Gabe Smith pitched a perfect 1 1-3.
All but two Kenai players scored runs.
“It wasn’t just one person,” Oliver said. “There wasn’t anyone who didn’t do something to help us. Everybody contributed.”
Johnny Brinner was 2 for 2 with two runs and two walks for the Kards, while Grenier had three RBIs, Caleb Smith walked twice, Gabe Smith had two RBIs and Brady Bostic walked twice.
Jacob Belger led SoHi by going 2 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, while Andrew Pieh was 2 for 4 and Derrick Jones had two walks.