After hours of a persistent Friday daytime drizzle, the sun broke out and so did the Kodiak Bears at the Kenai Little League fields.
Kodiak walked away with a 12-2 win in five innings over Kenai Central in Southcentral Conference play. The Bears moved to 4-2 in the conference and 6-3 overall, while the Kardinals dropped to 0-2 and 0-4 overall.
First-year Kenai head coach Luke Oliver pointed out 13 free passes that his staff recorded, including five errors and a handful of stolen bases, as the damaging plays.
“If we eliminate those … then we’re a little more competitive,” Oliver said. “Those are more outs that we could be getting.”
Kodiak head coach Jason Fox said he knows what kind of speed his crew can flash on the basepaths, and said he coaches his team to be alert and ready for any mistake their opposition makes.
“We like to be aggressive on the basepaths,” Fox said. “And we took advantage of that today.”
On the mound, Kards starter Manny Noriega gave up six earned runs in 2 1-3 innings of work, giving up three hits and five walks while whiffing two. Caleb Smith finished the final 2 2-3 frames in relief and was tagged with four earned runs on five hits and a walk.
Kodiak starter Nevin Lee shook off a rocky start to pitch four solid innings of four-hit ball, striking out six while giving up two earned runs with two walks. Josh Smith capped the win with a one-inning relief appearance and retired the side.
After grabbing an early 3-1 lead, the Bears offense exploded for five runs in the third inning, beginning with a leadoff walk to Louis Rocheleau, who later scored on a passed ball. Noriega gave up four walks and a single before being pulled with one out, and all ended up scoring.
The frame continued when Seth Rockenbach notched an RBI single. A walk by Lars Hanson forced Smith to take over for Noriega, but Paul Winegart brought in two runs on a grounder to second that was misplayed, allowing him to reach safely and push the Kodiak lead to 7-1.
“We had better at-bats today than (Thursday),” Fox said, referring to a one-hit showing against Soldotna.
Anders Hocum forced in another run on a bases-loaded walk, putting the Bears up 8-1, before the inning finally ended on a force out at second.
Kodiak put up two more runs in each of the next two innings, getting a two-run single from Shawn Walton in the fourth, then a sac fly from Chase Good that scored Rocheleau from second in the fifth, as well as a run-scoring error on a throw to first.
Kodiak designated hitter Kaleb Killsnight hit 2 for 3 with a walk, and notched a two-run single in the first inning that put the Bears up 3-0.
Kenai ended the first on a double play, then scored in the bottom of the first on an RBI double from Sam Berry, who lined a shot into right field with two outs to score Kenai’s first run of the afternoon.
Lee then tossed two consecutive innings of minimum Kenai batters, as a hit-by-pitch to Lance Kramer was his only blemish.
Andrew Carver led off Kenai’s half of the fourth with a double, then scored on a two-out single from Carlos Caballero, which cut the gap to 10-2. Carver finished the day with two doubles.
Caballero also had a trio of dazzling outfield catches in left field, getting his glove on a pair of smoking lineouts in the second and fourth innings and a tough-to-judge pop-out in the fifth.